Kristian Harting – Summer of Crush (Exile on Mainstream)
Danish singer-songwriter Kristian Harting’s 2014 debut album, Float, was an intriguing, atmospheric collection of dark and sometimes harrowing but somehow insubstantial (in the ethereal, rather than qualitative sense) songs. Summer of Crush is both more conventional (the songs are more complete, the tunes more tuneful) and also more accomplished. There’s a cinematic, sweeping, Bad Seeds quality to some of the material here, which heightens the enigmatic quality of the songs, while also rendering them more solid and memorable than his previous work. A masterly album – haunting without being grim -which will hopefully get the exposure it deserves and significantly raise the profile of this unique and talented artist.
Aphex Twin – various releases
Not new as such, but throughout the year, Richard James released over 200 unreleased Aphex Twin tracks through his Soundcloud account and although the sheer quantity of music released makes it hard to evaluate as a whole, much of the material was every bit as beautiful, enigmatic and unique as his more orthodoxly released music.
Haar – The Wayward Ceremony (ATMF)
This excellent debut album by Edinburgh black metallists Haar is inventive, intelligent and utterly free from the many clichés of the genre. Philosophical, perfectly contructed and brilliantly played, this was one of the debuts of the year.
Louise Le May – A Tale Untold (Folkwit Records)
A haunting collection of songs which can be (and is now being) lazily compared to Kate Bush. Beautifully composed and arranged, it’s an immersive, dreamlike record that has a rich and varied texture, but ultimately relies on Le May and her stunning voice for its poignant, evocative impact.
Myrkur – M (Relapse Records)
M effortlessly overcame the hype and anti-hype surrounding its release, instantly establishing Myrkur as a major player on the black metal stage; beautiful folk and classical-influenced melodies, Danish folklore and black metal that sounds like Ulver used to; this was something like a master(mistress?)piece.
WAIT! NEARLY FORGOT!:
Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs (20 Buck Spin)
If this album hadn’t already been so widely acclaimed it would have feature here in more detail. A brilliantly conceived, played and recorded work, Tanner Anderson is one of the very few musicians in black metal who has both a deep knowledge of medieval music, and no desire to utilise it in a cosplay-ish kind of way.
OLD ALBUM OF THE YEAR: contender# 5
Hardingrock – Grimen (Mnemosyne, 2007)
This collaboration between StarofAsh, Ihsahn and fiddler Knut Buen is a perfect mix of tradition, experimentation, electronica, folk, rock, metal and spoken word elements that sounds like nothing else. I wish they’d do it again.
So, that 2015 top five again…
I tried to put them in some kind of order but couldn’t decide which was the best. I think Jarboe/Helen Money has the edge but it would depend what kind of mood I was in, so here they are in no order again:
1. Jarboe & Helen Money – s/t
2. Secrets of the Moon – SUN
3. Oblivionized – Life Is A Struggle, Give Up
4. Enslaved – In Times
5. Kristian Harting – Summer of Crush
There were of course many, many more excellent releases in 2015;
VERY HONOURABLE MENTIONS:
Le Butcherettes – A Raw Youth (Ipecac Recordings) – great, scuzzy, post-Iggy punk with a hint of Birthday Party-like drama; great stuff.
Godhole – Godhole (Mind Ripper Collective) – this double EP by Edinburgh trio Godhole announced the arrival of a major new talent on the powerviolence/noise scene
Mongol Metal (compilation) (Mongol Metal) – great trio of bands mixing the styles of Mongolian folk music with various shades of metal
Horna – Hengen Tulet (World Terror Committee) – Excellent Horna album, to me not quite as good as Sanojesi äärelle, but great nonetheless
Orwell – Exposition Universelle (Folkwit Records) – complicated to play but easy to listen to, Exposition Universelle is a multilayered and very French progressive/baroque pop album.
Scythian – Hubris In Excelsis (Hell’s Headbangers) – a brilliant album which could easily have made the list had I not forgotten about it until now
My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery (Peaceville) – Especially impressive as I’ve never really been a fan of the band, this is an immense, cathartic work of art
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty) Stripped back to (almost) its basic elements, this is an incisive indie folk masterpiece
Drowning The Light – From the Abyss (Dark Adversary Productions) – The best work so far by the Australian BM terrorists; big, confident and (at times) surprisingly subtle
Shining – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends (Season of Mist) – you have to respect Kvarforth for not caring that I want him to make another Halmstad. Wish he would though – but this was good.
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) – the ten year hiatus since The Woods seems to have been good for the alt-rock stalwarts – as good an album as they have ever made
Barshasketh – Ophidian Henosis (Blut & Eisen Productions) – a strong album, especially notable for the way the band makes a coherent whole out of unpredictably serpentine song structures
Vargnatt – Grausammler (Eisenwald Tonschmiede) – Derided by some for its pleasant qualities, this was a perfectly balanced work of nature-inspired black metal
Faith No More – Sol Invictus (Ipecac Recordings) – Okay, it wasn’t Angel Dust (or even the best album Mike Patton has made in the last 10 years) but it was Faith No More, and pretty good overall….