No particular order to these, just my favorites condensed down to a hard 10 with a few honorable mentions!
Not sure i expected another Daughters album to happen at all, let alone for it to be the powerhouse mindfucker of a record on display here, but even though i’ve loved all their output and range of sounds, this is easily my favorite material they’ve ever delivered. though it’s uncategorizable to any one style, it has a certain bleakness to it that i can only describe as the sound of bottoming the fuck out but still kicking against the pricks at all costs.
I can’t even begin to put into words what this Low album sounds like, but it’s nothing like what they (or anyone else for that matter) have done before, and that’s the ultimate compliment in a world of cookie cutter genres & “recommended if you like” hype stickers. i’ve always been a fan of Low, but this hypnotic & at times abrasive collection of static & hiss infected avant pop ranks among my favorites from their vast catalog.
Rounding out my top 3 with yet another album that purposely colors outside the lines & blurs together elements of many genres into it’s own strange brew. This Yves banger blends his (un)usual brand of mutant rhythms with everything from sweeping orchestration & pop hooks to caustic bursts of electronic noise & industrial soundscapes, all to great effect.
Like an audio version of a Bosch painting.
Combine operatic vocals with breathtaking piano work, jagged chunks of harsh noise, guttural shrieks right out of the Diamanda Galas school of suffering & a handful of Aileen Wuornos samples & you’re somewhere close to the range of sounds conveyed in this beautiful audio nightmare.
From the mastermind behind Altar of Plagues & WIFE comes another offering from out of left field.
Bliss Signal is an electronic thumping beast of a project that somehow conveys the sheer intensity & icy atmospherics of black metal without ever resorting to cliches or even sounds traditionally associated with that genre.
there were a few artists previously categorized as “witchhouse” that made a strong resurgence this year, but out of all those fine albums, only this one made my cut.
(see honorable mentions for a couple close calls)
Back in its original heyday, White Ring blessed us with one classic EP that seemed to define the genre, now years later they finally made good on the promise of a full length & it certainly checks all the boxes & then some. Long live witchhouse, especially in the hands of pioneers like White Ring who have formed & molded the sound into something all their own, but still unmistakably “witchy”.
Further Reading: Spectrum Culture
Godspeed You Black Emperor “leader” Efrim dropped this spooked out epic early in the year & as the cold weather creeps in I find myself revisiting it a lot more often. Imagine a frosty Canadian version of Nebraska era Springsteen covering Suicide songs as droned out/stripped down spirituals & you’re getting close to the sound conveyed here.
I know this is the oddball on my list, but since we’re already on the folky tip, Mr. Prine gave us the best singer-songwriter album of the year, as expected, and another highlight to his decades deep catalog. Bonus points for also being my favorite live show of the year, the man played for 2 and a half hours & never missed a beat or took a break.
There’s no way I could make a year end list without including at least one of the projects The Body unleashed this year, they never disappoint & always give you plenty of material to choose from as a fan. I decided to include their true full length, especially considering it features Lingua Ignota heavily on vocals & also makes a nice addendum to her aforementioned album.
I would say more, but if you like this band, you already know this is an apocalyptic ripper of gargantuan proportions.
(also an honorable mention to that Uniform/Body collab record, it was a tough call but that one is highly recommended too)
I almost always include a soundtrack, so here’s one for a movie I’ve never seen, by a “band” that I love. Anyone who was bummed that Liars have turned into a one man project these days has zero room to complain after we got this bonus album recorded during their heavy dance floor duo lineup.
It’s all instrumental, with plenty of bleeps/bloops, synths & pounding beats, a perfect farewell to that era of this project. “Liquorice” is one of my favorite tracks this year & has appeared in nearly every playlist, DJ set & mixtape that I’ve made since it came out.
(honorable mention to the actual “new” Liars album TWTWF, it’s a great album itself but just came too late in the year to make as much impact on me as this soundtrack did)
other honorable mentions:
DENZEL CURRY, VINCE STAPLES, EARL SWEATSHIRT & JPEGMAFIA comprised my top hip hop albums, with EU1OGY (who isn’t specifically just hip hop, but in the same general realm as some of these artists) being the favorite artist that I just discovered this year.
RITUALZ & oOoOO/ISLAMIQ GRRRLS were the other couple witchhouse revival albums that I really liked.
FACTORY FLOOR almost stole the soundtrack pick for this list with their two and a half hour score for Metropolis.
NENEH CHERRY delivered another killer album, big fan of all her work.
STREET SECTS, THOU, UNIFORM, THE ARMED & PIG DESTROYER all released albums which would have easily been contenders if my list was a top 20.
also, ALIEN SEX FIEND released a new album a few weeks back that I just picked up but haven’t got to properly sink my teeth into enough yet.