This year feels a bit more low key, perhaps because it’s been busy or because of the apprehension of what comes next, this means I’ve not been wanting to raise my blood pressure that much. As usual there’s a playlist of the top six with additional few songs that have also been on heavy rotation, but didn’t make it into the headlines.
Something about the way the ominous brass section drones pull you in really creates a great foreboding at the start of the album, even if the song ending gives you more hope. Like the rest of the album it feels intricately put together and perfect for telling its story. It’s also from my album of the year, and there are many more great songs on it.
It was always a simple, mesmerising, yet somehow disconcerting and slightly unstable, song; in a way that I’d just described to myself as ‘Radiohead’. Then I saw this episode of Earworm by Estelle Caswell , based on an analysis by Warren Lain, explaining the hidden syncopation. While perhaps a bit technical in analysis than a music review, those videos do what the best art criticism does, that’s not to give a rating or even an opinion, but to make you see something new, something more, in a piece, that you didn’t see before.
Still one of the best open heart story telling bands out there, The Menzingers deliver another great album with catchy songs and lyrics of experience. ‘After The Party’ hits that strange emotion between regret and being proud that you did do it your own way anyway. This is also on here because of a great gig I managed to go and see with a crowd of friends I don’t get to see that often any more, cementing it into this year’s musical highlights.
I don’t listen to a lot of German language music, mostly because my formative experiences were all with British and American bands, but this crossed my path at a quiet moment and jumped out. Musing on what makes you unhappy, and what are no simple solutions to that problem. Eventually anthemic, I’d probably call it ‘Post-Hardcore’, should genres be your thing (it has a strong ‘Future of the Left’ feel to it, if you want to call them ‘Post-Hardcore'), its certainly punk and not taking itself too seriously while eventually getting serious. The song title translates to: “Live in such a way that everyone wants to know how”.
I’m not sure what makes this my favourite track on ‘Open Every Eye’ but I think it’s the teasing high hats that keep sneaking in, but never really opening up. It doesn’t have the big build and release of Clearest Blue, and is more snide and bitter, but reveals more, both in story and production on repeated listens.
So I can’t resist one riff heavy monster. Perhaps not remarkable, other than it feels like Mastodon on top form, doing what they do best in short sweet format.
After repeated listens my favourite album is, without a doubt, Every Valley. As Public Service Broadcasting say themselves: “it’s the concept album about mining in South Wales that no one asked for”, but I’m still very happy they created it. While a much narrower scope than The Race For Space, I feel it succeeds in telling the everyday stories about people caught up in events that seem overpowering and beyond them. Other examples from great albums are on the extended playlist, but include songs from Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’ and Japandroid’s ‘Near To The Wild Heart Of Life’, which translated into a great live show I was lucky enough to see.