As the year ends, I find myself shuffling through the albums I have accrued over the past months. Each album an experience, an insight gained, a lens changed, I have continually found myself lost in the art that encapsulated the sonic apotheosis of this past year. The experiences captured within these sounds provide themselves as the soundtrack to a progressing year in the ever-growing and ever-changing experience that is my short, but full, time on this Terra.
The diversity of the works found below only solidify the notion of human variation. An album for a great night, and surely one for a bad night. As we traverse through the clicking clock of our molecular solidification, music is a reminder that the pain, and happiness we feel, is something that unifies us all as a species that emits insecurities.
In no particular order, for the rewards of each work contrast incredibly with each other.
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
Katie Crutchfield makes beautiful music. It completely makes sense that Cerulean Salt, the follow up to the bedroom recorded American Weekend, would evolve into a collection of indie rock that varies from track to track, yielding insight into the musical variety Crutchfield has to offer. From indie pop ballads “Peace and Quite,” and “Coast to Coast,” to the somber effects of “Blue Pt. II,” and “Brother Bryan,” Crutchfield showcases a soundtrack to the rocky equilibrium of human emotion.
“I sail from coast to coast. I’ll try to brace the lows.”
The 1975 – The 1975
I surmise that many will find this album atop end of the year lists, but damn, what a debut. While not as varied as I personally would have liked, each track on this self-titled debut is executed to perfection. From their classic ambient sounds, to pop ballads that would have reigned supreme in the ’80s, the Manchester act certainly concluded that they are here as a powerhouse in the vast world of alternative rock. Listen to “Girls,” and attempt to get that chorus out of your head. Go ahead, I dare you.
“I know you’re looking for salvation in the secular age, but girl I’m not your savior.”
The Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual
The Appleseed Cast deserve so much more. I may say this with a bias, but I truly believe that they are extremely underrated, and deserve your immediate attention. Releasing amazingly atmospheric works since the late 90’s, their latest album, Illumination Ritual is of no lesser caliber. Marrying the atmospheres of Sagarmatha, and the Low Level Owls, with the accessibility of Two Conversations, and Peregrine, Illumination Ritual is a consciously constructed work that will aid in your contemplation of the night sky. An album that plays heavily on the early (or late) hours of the evening, the illumination is found in lush guitars, warm vocals, and a prolonged desire for more.
“The Lovers have won. The rivers are flowing.”
Balance and Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing
The sophomore release from the scenery acclaimed act, The Things We Think We’re Missing fixes everything I disliked about Balance and Composure’s prior album, Separation. Toning down on the production, and higher on the volume, the soundscapes created on The Things We Think We’re Missing finally give use to the band’s triple guitar set up. Between some of the smoothest vocals the scene has to offer, and walls of distortion drowned in emotion, Balance and Composure’s latest release highlights what was loved about 90’s grunge, coupled with a punk attitude and a constant yearning for growth.
“There’s a color or a shade, revealing, lighting up your face, shine on me, shine on me.”
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
Everyone needs to experience Scottish act Frightened Rabbit’s live show, only to be followed by a smooth, crisp, pint. There is something about this band that increases my love affair with my beard, and makes me find myself a stout. This appreciation is only accelerated with the bands latest LP, Pedestrian Verse. Frabbit have always had a way with words, and Pedestrian Verse is no different. Combining the song structure from beloved The Midnight Organ Fight, along with the atmosphere of The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, Pedestrian Verse is the perfect explanation of what the band is made of. More varied, better written and produced, the band’s latest is easily their best yet.
“Would you come brighten my corner?”
Tidal Arms – Tidal Arms
An album that took me by surprise, and subsequently knocked me on my ass, the Brooklyn based trio produce one of the most schizophrenic works of the year. I had the pleasure of reviewing the album, and found the artistry of the band’s song formation to be one of the more rewarding aspects of the year. Each song presenting itself as a new experience, the band will take you from light to dark, from loud to soft, and from high to low, all within four minutes or so. Bringing the riffs, whether it be metal or melancholy, Tidal Arms is an album worth your time.
“It’s wearing a shape now, and spinning its line, there’s nothing but time.”
Volcano Choir – Repave
Marking Justin Vernon’s return, Repave is an incredibly moving album. Enlightened by an incredible live show in Boston, Volcano Choir gave me one of the most emotionally draining experiences of the year. Sewing softly in between euphoric sonic climaxes and sweeping guitars, the lush environments painted by the band are only calcified by Vernon’s soulful voice. An album that couples best with the cold, I dare say a snowed in evening with Repave will provide many rewards, most notably a heightened appreciation for the environments around you. “The door is wide open.”
“Said that we could go back, said that we could go find, terra forming!”
True Widow – Circumambulation
This album absolutely terrifies me, and I love every second of it. When I think that True Widow has pulled out all the dark riffs in their repertoires from their darkest crevices, the next track comes on. While simplistic in form, this album is cohesive in execution. Thundering boom after boom, drone vocals layer the black atmosphere, True Widow will provide you with an escape. Slow, brooding, and gloomy, Circumambulation is a collection of sounds that show the effectiveness of a slow build, culminating in an experience that is more investigative than one would imagine.
“Just inside there you can stay. When you see me please don’t look away.”
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Matt Berninger sure seems depressed, but at least we have him to highlight all of our somber needs. It is a shame it has taken this long for The National to finally garner some traction, but we can rest easy with our bottle of wine knowing that at least this time around, the band is nominated for Best Alternative Music Album. The band’s latest, Trouble Will Find Me provides airier textures than its predecessor, High Violet, though through repeated listens, Trouble Will Find Me will continually provide new sounds, buried deep down within the albums lush production. With the band’s best opener to date, the album ends as strong as it begins. Acoustic guitars passing through one another, impressive percussion and rhythmic sections, all led by one of the most identifiable baritones in indie rock. Leave your troubles at the door, friend, The National sings about them all already.
“I should leave it alone but you’re not right.”
Sigur Rós – Kveikur
A lot of the time I feel there is little that needs to be said about Sigur Rós. Instead, they just purely need to be experienced. Kveikur is one of those times. Deducing Kveikur into words is a difficult task, though the Icelandic native’s latest is a powerhouse of sound, emotion, and inspiration. Acting as one of the band’s darker works, Kveikur may be their heaviest. Opener “Brennisteinn” is as epic as it is urgent, the albums introduction is of the grandest. As a writer I am compelled to speak, though there are little words that can adequately convey my feelings towards this album, it needs to be felt.
“Við skerum á
Nú stingur í
Top 5 EP’s of the Year:
Title Fight – Spring Songs
Everything we love about Title Fight, condensed into a four track journey.
Whirr – Around
Noisy, atmospheric, grand and moving, Around is Whirr’s best release yet.
Petal – Scout
From the beginning melodies of “Comeback,” I knew I would have much to enjoy from Petal. What’s next?
Caspian – Hymn For The Greatest Generation
A grand exposition of the human experience, Hymn For The Greatest Generation will move you in ways once thought impossible.
Cloakroom – Infinity
For those of us who drone through our days, Infinity is the calm collective of emotional outburst we desire.
Daylight – Jar
Citizen – Youth
Deafheaven – Sunbather
Turnover – Magnolia
The Story So Far – What You Don’t See
Albums that also encapsulated my year…
Carissa’s Wierd – Songs About Leaving
Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
Basement – Colourmeinkindness
Drew Caruso, along with his chi-weenie sidekick, Clifton, is a news, feature, and review writer at Under The Gun Review. Follow him on Twitter.