Archive | January 2016

Looking back on 2015: my top 50, and the rest of the (unsorted) 2015 loves…

I have a love/hate relationship with end-of-the-year lists from music publications and blogs– the worst are simply laundry lists of the stuff you’ve already seen on every other list, and the most interesting can also be the most frustrating, giving me (and no doubt you) the impression of endless indexes of Bandcamp obscurities which very few will likely never have the time to to even begin to tackle. I suppose that the plain truth is that one’s taste depends so much more on the factors to do with the proximity (whether it be geographic, interpersonal, etc.) of a release relative to one’s life than on any “objective” set of criteria. My taste is what it is, I guess, and while I’m not entirely sure what algorithms or whatever are going on when I connect strongly with something, I cannot lie and say that the whole thing isn’t also influenced by the circumstances under which I happened upon a release– i.e. if I responded strongly to something because it was a submission to this blog that I particularly appreciated receiving or because the maker happened to be a friend. That’s just how things work in this thing called “life”, though.

I apologize in advance for the slight lack in diversity you may notice while browsing through my initial top 50– admittedly, most of what’s here is the droney ambient for sad people stuff, though there is also more art-rock in this post than I thought there would be, along with some samplings here and there from other zones that will perhaps surprise you. Or perhaps not. For one thing, I was not expecting Simple Songs to be a heart-wringing masterpiece on the level of John Cale’s Paris 1919, something I’ll definitely be listening to over and over through the years. And yet, there it is at number one, and here we are. But, really, from the crumbling textures and poetic narrative of Letha Rodman Melchior’s posthumously-released Shimmering Ghost to the mischievous, effulgent Berlin-school-influenced electronic improvisations captured on Pulse Emitter and Panabrite’s debut collaboration as Water Bureau, I was, just like I am every year, primarily drawn to whatever aroused my curiosity. At the same time, though, the new Zelienople was bound to end up at either the first or second spot. I can’t always explain why I’m so strongly drawn to certain things, and so I didn’t try to here. Hopefully you’ll understand…

For your convenience I have hyperlinked every entry in the top 50 so that while scrolling you will at no point feel like you’re just staring at vaguely “cool-sounding” stuff that would require a Google search to start to mean something. Following my top 50, I have listed the rest of my unsorted favorites from 2015 that I want to take the time to acknowledge as the contemporary stuff I spent a fair amount of time with last year and really enjoyed. I suppose that I got tired of ranking stuff beyond the first fifty definites, but since there is never any end to all the excellent music that comes out each year, I thought it important to acknowledge all my other favorites without attempting to assign them to a fixed value. Honestly, the top 50 themselves are not really ranked in terms of aesthetic merit, just in terms of the strength of the personal connections that I made with them. I would like to thank everyone who was kind enough to share their art with me– it was an honor to receive it and look it over and it is cool that I am able to do this.
Happy new year to you all and happy listening…and if you’re in Portland, keep your eyes peeled for Foreign Accents in 2016, as I am planning to use this outlet to book some small shows!

My top 50 of 2015:

  1. Jim O’Rourke- Simple Songs [Drag City]
  2. Zelienople- Show Us The Fire [Immune Recordings]
  3. Neglect- Western Romance Novels [Lifelike Family]
  4. pinkcourtesyphone- Sentimental Something [Important Records]
  5. Guapo- Obscure Knowledge [Cuneiform Records]
  6. Föllakzoid- III [Sacred Bones]
  7. Lupe Fiasco- Tetsuo & Youth [Atlantic Records]
  8. Helm- Olympic Mess [PAN]
  9. Noveller- Fantastic Planet [Fire Records]
  10. Chihei Hatakeyama & Federico Durand- Magical Imaginary Child [White Paddy Mountain]
  11. Patkus- Colors [self-released, not on label]
  12. Natural Snow Buildings- Terror’s Horns [Ba Da Bing Records]
  13. One More Grain- Grain Fever [self-released, not on label]
  14. Deison & Uggeri- In The Other House [Old Bicycle Records]
  15. Ant’lrd- Clouding Indefinitely [Inner Islands]
  16. Inner Travels- Phases Of A Forest Moon [Otherworldly Mystics]
  17. M. Akers- Whitest Hunters, Blackest Hearts [Suite 309]
  18. Ujjaya- Prononcer Oudjaye [self-released, not on label]
  19. Ryuichi Sakamoto, Illuha, & Taylor Deupree- Perpetual [12k]
  20. Thet Liturgiske Owasendet- Järtecken [Shimmering Moods]
  21. Masaya Ozaki- Fluid And Dreaming of Stripes [Eilean Recordings]
  22. Christina Vantzou- No. 3 [Kranky]
  23. Giulio Aldinucci- Spazio Sacro [Time Released Sound]
  24. Loren Chasse- The Animals And Their Shadows [Semperflorens]
  25. Kate Carr- I Had Myself a Nuclear Spring [Flaming Pines]
  26. Celer & Nicholas Szczepanik- Here, For Now [self-released, not on label]
  27. Fabio Orsi- Just For A Thrill [Home Normal]
  28. Alessandro Cortini- Risveglio [Hospital Productions]
  29. Drowning in Wood- Drowning in Wood [Scissor Tail Editions]
  30. Andrew Weathers Ensemble- Fuck Everybody, You Can Do Anything [Full Spectrum]
  31. Benoît Pioulard- Sonnet [Kranky]
  32. William Basinski- Cascade [2062]
  33. Gnod- Infinity Machines [Rocket Recordings]
  34. Abul Mogard- The Sky Had Vanished [ECSTATIC]
  35. Forest Management- Encounter [Martinson Records]
  36. Water Bureau- Water Bureau [Sacred Phrases]
  37. En- City of Brides [Students of Decay]
  38. Dave Phillips & Hiroshi Hasegawa- Insect Apocalypse [Monotype Records]
  39. Donnacha Costello- Stay Perfectly Still [Ursa]
  40. Western Skies Motel- Buried And Resurfaced [Twice Removed Records]
  41. Greg Stuart & Ryoko Akama- Kotoba Koukan [Crisis Records/Lengua de Lava]
  42. øjeRum- The Forest Is Sleeping Within The Trees [Scissor Tail Editions]
  43. Joda Clément- I Hope You Like The Universe [Notice Recordings]
  44. Letha Rodman Melchior- Shimmering Ghost [Siltbreeze Records]
  45. James Murray- The Sea In The Sky [VoxxoV Records]
  46. Deepchord- Ultraviolet Music [Soma Records]
  47. How to Cure Our Soul- Saigon [Audiobulb]
  48. Waver Clamor Bellow- Mare’s Nest [self-released, not on label]
  49. Cavatica Sessions- Orbweaver [Tamarack Music]
  50. Nicola Tirabasso- Soundtrack For Acariño Galaico [ArteTeTra]

And the rest…

Joshua Abrams- Magnetoception, Acronym- June, Monty Adkins- Unfurling Streams, anthéne- Repose, Félicia Atkinson- A Readymade Ceremony, Aidan Baker- Ecliptic Plane, Aires & Rui P. Andrade- Pânico-Ambiente, Ak’Chamel, The Giver of Illness- The Man Who Drank God, Giulio Aldinucci- Yellow Horse, Oren Ambarchi & Jim O’Rourke- Behold, Amulets- Sierra Highs, Ant’lrd- Sunnup, Autistici- Temporal Enhancement, Babau- Papalagi, Simon Balestrazzi- Ultrasonic Bathing Apparatus, Bamboo Stilts- Beneath the Bark, Daniel Barbiero & Cristiano Bocci- Nostos, Beachers- Portrait, Paul Beauchamp- Pondfire, Benoit Pioulard- Stanza I & II, Sir Richard Bishop- Tangier Sessions, Black Spring & The Engineer- Split,  [BOLT]- [3], Jeff Bridges- Sleeping Tapes, Evan Caminiti- Meridian, Tom Carter- Long Time Underground, Alex Cobb- Chantepleure, Edu Comelles- Agost, Martijn Comes- Tradition Noise, Contact Cult- Hylozoist, Mike Cooper- Fratello Mare, Kara-Lis Coverdale- Aftertouches, Ian William Craig- A Cradle for the Wanting, Creepoid- Cemetery Highrise Scum, Tim Daisy- On The Ground ‘An Amusing Mess’, Deison/Favaron- Nearly Invisible, Delyria- Opus 7, Deradoorian- The Expanding Flower Planet, Dialog Tapes [DAUW & Eilean Records]- Various Artists, Dimitar Dodovski- Potential Worlds, Kris Dubinsky & Warmth- Nature In Its Forms, Dweomer- Sleeping Thorn, Eartheater- RIP Chrysalis, El Owl- El Owl, Andrew Endres Collective- Desolation, Enya- Dark Sky Island, Eternal Tapestry- Wild Strawberries, Fontaine- Diamond Lake, Forest Management- Drift, Richard Ginns- Until The Morning Comes, Godspeed You! Black Emperor- Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress, Grease Envelope- Initial Public Release, Gurun Gurun- Kon B, Hakobune- Love Knows Where, Hakobune- Mizukagami, Steve Hauschildt- Where All Is Fled, Hecq- Mare Nostrum, Heezen- Abandoned Memory, Andrew Henry- Two Pieces, High Light- High Light, Christopher Hipgrave- No Greater Hero Than The Least Plant That Grows, ieva- Lueurs, Julia Holter- Have You In My Wilderness, Rafael Anton Irisarri- A Fragile Geography, Phillip Jeck- Cardinal, Kangding Ray- Cory Arcane, Tatsuro Kojima- Refraction and Reflection, Lake Mary- And The Birds Sing In Chorus First, Graham Lambkin & Michael Pisaro- Schwarze Riesenfalter, Kyle Landstra- Unshared Properties, Vol. I-IV, Scott Lawlor & The Gateless Gate- Ancient Ocean, The Lonely Bell- The Lonely Bell, Lost Trail- One Day We’ll All Walk Outside And Stare Up At The Blameless Sky And Wait For Something To Happen, Robert Aiki Lowe & Ariel Kalma, Magic Fades & Soul Ipsum- Zirconia Dynasty, Radu Malfatti- One Man And A Fly, Lorenzo Masotto- Seta, Master Musicians of Bukkake- Further West Quad Cult, Stephan Mathieu- Before Nostromo, Daniel Menche & Mamiffer- Crater, Matthew Mercer- Supernatant, Mind Over MIDI- Deep Map, Ryosuke Miyata – Sea of Nebukawa, The Myrrors- Arena Negra, The Necks- Vertigo, Nhung Nguyen- Winter’s Stories, Noordwiijk- Sailor Boy II, The Occupant- Gradient Rot, Oneohtrix Point Never- Garden of Delete, The Oo-Ray- Empty Orchestra, Opaline- Open Source, Ought- Sun Coming Down, Kevin Parks & Vanessa Rossetto- Severe Liberties, Duane Pitre- Bayou Electric, Max Richter- Sleep, Matana Roberts- Coin Coin Chapter Three: river run thee, Roots Manuva- Bleeds, Ruhe- Chamber Loops, Christian Scott- Stretch Music, selaroda- viaje a través de sonidos transportative, Mike Shiftlet & High Aura’d- Awake, shuttle358- Can You Prove I Was Born, Solar Drift- Solar Drift, Stag Hare- Tapestry, Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – Never Were The Way She Was, Strom Noir- Esoptron, Temple Maps- Cryogenic, Rafael Toral- Space Collective 2 Live, Tropic Of Coldness- Demography Of Data, Twinkle³ with Sidsel Endresen – Debris In Lower Earth OrbitVoices From The Lake- Live at Maxxxi, Warren Schoenbright- Eaten By The Forest, Wasting Seasons- Love Sentence, Andrew Weathers- Light In The Valley, White Manna- Pan, John Wiese- Deviate From Balance, Gary Wilson- Alone With Gary Wilson, Wire- Wire, wndfrm- Formal Variant, Wolf Eyes- I Am A Problem: Mind In Pieces, Xu- Panpsychism, Zander One- glowing, Zs- Xe, Rutger Zuydervelt- Sneeuwstorm