Although it’s hard not to jump on the bandwagon when talking about 2016 we still wish you a pleasant year’s end and a cheer for the new year. However, before we start the days that lay ahead with champagne and fireworks we counted our blessings which of course, also resulted in these two illustrious album year lists.
As you might have guessed last solstice was reason enough for us to draw up a list with our best albums of 2016 until this day. Here goes!
Hinds delivers a stable fundament, a catchy upbeatness and a strong no-nonsense sentiment on their first studio album. A splendid achievement of a group of young friends who again prove that the future belongs to the young (WRM – SftDS review).
After an excellent, old school comeback, German metal machine Iron Savior shows that lightning can indeed strike twice. An excellent power metal album, with a host of varied and pumping tunes (RP).
Channel the Spirits – The Comet Is Coming
Channel the Spirits breaks through the traditional jazz swing and brings very danceable jazz funk. The ensemble taps into the work of free jazz pioneers such John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra. Highly recommended (WRM). ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Getting slightly less dark and more retro rocking with each new release, this American band is still a standout in the barrage of retro bands kicking about at the moment. Less heavy, but a little more mature than before (RP).
Finally The Heliocentrics definitely found their niche by bringing together all experience they have gathered around them in recent years. From The Deep is raw and conceptually challenging but moreover. It’s a piece of work to turn inside out over and over again (WRM – SftDS review).
The brothers Tolis return with another collection of their own particular brand of ethnic-upped black-ish metal. Which is something you’d not read on the back of the box very soon. Ethnic-upped probably isn’t even a thing. Still, a great album (RP – SftDS review).
Dutch musician Jameszoo combines Hip hop, jazz, dubstep, R&B and Brazilian music and also is inspired by the medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch. Jameszoo himself calls his debut album Fool a collection of “naive, computer jazz”. I fully agree, so I pitty the fool who doesn’t pick up on this album soon… (WRM – SftDS review).
King is the culmination of years of work for this Italian band, finally marrying classical music and black metal like a Rhapsody of Fire steroids. A triumph for Fleshgod Apocalypse, and an album to keep coming back to (RP).
A Man Alive is an adventurous album and offers listeners a record that is simply full of plain old fun and at the same time is interesting enough to keep playing throughout 2016. Outstanding job Thao (WRM – SftDS review)!
Almost half a year in, Blackstar is still the most intruiging, mysterious and downright fascinating record out there. Bowie’s last album is a masterpiece of jazz fusion and its dark as night itself, both musically as well as lyrically. Unsettling and brilliant (RP – SftDS review).
Indeed, jazz fusion, free jazz and jazz funk are gaining terrain. How about that!? Perhaps it has something to do with age, who knows. Anyway, have a nice summer and see you on the other side.
Ralph Plug & Wander Meulemans – 290616
Happy belated non-denominational winter holiday of your choice, everyone! We’re back with another tombola filled with musical endeavours of our choosing. Round and round it goes, where it stops, no-one knows. Except we do, and here are what we thought were the best albums of 2015. Enjoy.
‘Summer, summer, summertime…‘ Yep, we’re both huge fans of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Especially at this time of the year. For that exact reason these are our best releases of 2015 until today.
An absolute triumph of intricate, song-writing makes this the band’s most ambitious record. With two choirs and two orchestras in tow, the Blind Guardian never forgets that it’s a metal band first, and delivers on all promises. A true power metal masterpiece (RP – SftDS review).
Viet Cong made this January a month to remember by throwing down the gloves with some sharp edged post-punk. And developing a record in while touring in front of live audiences is kind of experimental though? You better believe the hype. If not, that’s your bad (WRM – SftDS review).
Ireland’s noisiest trio return to their catchier brand of songwriting on a fun and accessible albums which immediately reminds of their Troublegum heydays. Great fun all in all. (RP).
An empty living or a stuffy bedroom still is the best place to listen to Little Wings. Frontman Fields waywardly plays around breaking the conventions of alt-country. A close listen to Explains therefore is mandatory for everyone who’s enjoys progressive music (WRM – SftDS review).
David DeFeis strikes again with a daunting collection of epic songs, once again combining classical influences with the rawness of rock and metal. (RP).
Alamo Race Track – Hawks
For the fourth time now Alamo Race Track changed its sound to a new adagium but without losing their touch for high quality and well thought out indie pop song structuring. Did they found true place in the universe? I’d like to think so (WRM – SftDS review).
Paradise Lost’s much awaited return to their death/doom metal roots pays off on a varied and intensely moody album, which might be their best since their early Icon-days (RP).
I didn’t get the chance to review this 172-minute, three-volume jazz set that includes a 32-piece orchestra, a 20-person choir, and 17 songs overlaid with a compositional score. But trust me, I’ll get back to that later. For now you will have settle with my comment that the titles says it al (WRM).
A keytar-fuelled cheesefest if there ever was one, but Battle Beast third outing hugely profits from the amazing vocals of head-banshee Noora Louhimo and some immensely catchy songs (RP).
Courtney Barnett or Tobias Jesso Jr? That’s a Devil’s choice. I think I’ll go for Courtney. Why? Well, it’s an ideal mix for some good old fashioned spirit lifting and at the same time is nice enough to play as background music (WRM – SftDS review).
There you go, something for everyone huh. So altough temperatures are rising high at the moment we’re still keen to push things foward for the rest of 2015.
Ralph Plug & Wander Meulemans – 010715
W’s Sounds from the Dark Side on Spotify
Although it’s always difficult to pin down a musical year in a few words a lot of critics do it anyway. Thus, we can’t stay behind on that, can we? However, before we end 2014 in style, let us loosely say we enjoyed working in the dark to serve you the reviews of the music we like and that nothing is true and yes, … everything is permitted.
Hey y’all, summer solstice lies behind us so it’s time to saw the year in half. These are our top albums of 2014 until now and in no apparent order. Metal, Latin, Hip Hop-Jazz, Western funeral march music… we’ve got it all!
Britain’s most resilient hard rock underdog returns with a new album, building on 2011’s Into the Wild’s strengths to deliver a well-rounded album that fits well in Heep’s ever expanding oeuvre (RP).
Burn Your Fire For No Witness is richly produced and gives way to Olsen’s strong voice. Oh, its also full of bone breaking honestness too. All spotlights on Angel Olsen please! (WRM – SftDS review).
A remarkably strong album by Germany’s power metal institute, Empire of the Undead takes Gamma Ray to heavier, darker places than before, and it’s a better album because of that (RP- SftDS review).
Tropical madness in its full glory is probably the best way to describe Salvadora Robot. All forms of Latin just tumble over each other creating a madcap carnival for those who have a few screws loose (WRM – SftDS review).
Although the album bursts at the seams with sonic bells and whistles, choirs and orchestration, The Quantum Enigma is arguably the strongest album the Dutch female fronted band has released since The Divine Conspiracy in 2007 (RP).
BADBADNOTGOOD – III
If you’re into instrumental hip hop and don’t mind a whiff of fusion, these Canadian youngsters have something special to offer: a krauty hip hop-acid-jazz crossover record that is. And indeed, it’s awesome (WRM – SftDS review).
Something of a return to form for the Finnish melodic metal band, after years of alienating friend and foe with faux art rock (RP –SftDS review).
Although the title suggest otherwise, the new Timber Timbre is in fact a pretty haunting listing experience. Over the top somber guitar play, frightening violin sections and tolling funeral bells will certainly turn a sultry dream into an endless nightmare. Delightful album, if you ask us (WRM – SftDS review).
With Triptykon’s sophomore album, Tom Gabriel Fischer cements his status as a death metal legend. Melana Chasmata oozes dark, metallic brilliance from all pores (RP).
Mix up some smooth late night jazz with a touch of gloominess and you’ll have your perfect dayender right here. Also we’ve only recently discovered cats truly love Jennifer Charles’ sensual voice. Can’t ague with that (WRM – SftDS review).
So, eyes front, and on to the horizon, because 2014 still has a lot in store, and things might even get more diverse as we head into the year’s second half.
Ralph Plug & Wander Meulemans – 300614
W’s Sounds from the Dark Side on Spotify
The year is almost over, so it’s time to draw up the musical balance. We probably missed out on one or two nice albums in the proceedings of this year, so there is all the more reason to keep watch in 2014. Before doing that, let us close 2013 with two proper year lists.
Wander’s Eclectic Top Ten List of 2013:
As far as I’m concerned this year brought us a more than a few solid releases. Especially artists that have been with us for quite some time now were still able to amaze. Some of those truly returned to form, although mostly upheld their high standards. Those of you who dared to look a bit further also found that there was room for some refreshing innovation that was mainly inspired by non-Western traditions. This potential could be endless for its based on something very simple, playfulness. To be honest I’m pretty pleased 2013 showed me the oldies still got it and some emerging bands truly surpassed my expectations.
10. Matt Elliott – Only Myocardial Infarction Can Break Your Heart (SftDS review)
9. Goldfrapp – Tales Of Us (SftDS review)
8. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
7. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away (SftDS review)
6. Lola Montez – Kolaveri Di (SftDS review)
5. Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze
4. Meridian Brothers – Devoción (Works 2005 – 2011) (SftDS review)
3. Bill Callahan – Dream River (SftDS review)
There’s no denying it, Bill Callahan just keeps on making the one beautiful song after the other. So I suggest you’ll wait until the day is about to end, pour yourself a nightcap and surrender yourself to Callahan’s short poems.
2. Deerhunter – Monomania
I don’t have any excuse for not reviewing Deerhunter this year. So here is my opinion in a nutshell: Monomania is absolutely f$#k@*g splendid! If you ask me this is by far, the best indie-rock album of 2013. Got that?
1. The Heliocentrics – 13 Degrees of Reality (SftDS review)
13 Degrees of Reality is built upon a diversity of sounds coming from all corners of the world. The Heliocentrics successfully blend this diversity into something new and progressive. Don’t be afraid to pick up this one at your local record store if in need of some forshadowing tension.
Concerts of 2013:
– Ibrahim Maalouf – North Sea Jazz Festival. Ahoy Rotterdam 13-7-2013 (SftDS review)
– Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – HMH. Amsterdam 4-11-2013 (SftDS review)
– Matt Elliott – Le Guess Who? Leeuwenbergh Utrecht 1-12-2013
Anticipated for 2014:
– Beck – Morning Phase – Expected 14-2-2014
– Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams – Expected 1-4-2014
– Modest Mouse – TBD
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Ralph’s Unholy List of Infernal Racket of 2013:
There have been worse musical years, especially when you are into more the old-fashioned sounding heavy metal of yesteryear. The retro virus is apparently still spreading and the swampy, seventies vibe still roams through the metallic land. There have been a number of surprises for me this year and at least one more than convincing comeback, and drawing up a list of ten best (or favourite) albums felt like a herculean effort. So without further ado, here’s my top ten list of 2013:
10. Jex Thoth – Blood Moon Rise
9. Rotting Christ – Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού (SftDS review)
8. Chthonic – Bú-Tik (SftDS review)
7. Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn (SftDS review)
6. Avatarium – Avatarium
5. Kvelertak – Meir (SftDS review)
4. Ghost – Infestissumam (SftDS review)
3. Bowie, David – The Next Day (SftDS review)
Bowie’s first album in ten years totally came out of left field, but managed to both convince and surprise. A perfect marriage between the man’s older and newer material, The Next Day is up there with his best efforts.
2. Twilight of the Gods – Fire on the Mountain (SftDS review)
No one expected this Bathory cover band to come out with their own material, but Fire on the Mountain is a real scorcher, and not to be missed by fans of traditional and epic heavy metal.
1. Atlantean Kodex – The White Goddess (SftDS review)
Really putting the ‘e’ in ‘epic’, the German Atlantean Kodex pulls no punches on their terrific sophomore album. The White Goddess is one of those rare albums that is way ahead of the competition, and is destined to become an all-time classic metal album in the years to come.
Concerts of 2013:
– Rush – Ziggo Dome Amsterdam, 2-6-2013
– Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Goffertpark Nijmegen, 22-6-2013 (SftDS review)
– Roger Waters – Gelredome Arnhem, 18-7-2013 (SftDS review)
Anticipated for 2014:
– Iced Earth – Plagues of Babylon – Expected 1-6-2014
– Alcest – Shelter – Expected 17-1-2014
– Iron Savior – Rise of the Hero – Expected 28-2-2014
That’s it for now so see you next year. Have a nice one, and oh,… ‘keep on trucking’.