In the ever evolving world of the music business, there’s a lot of different people that keep the world turning that the public don’t always get to see, so Bearded thought it time we celebrated the unsung heroes, the invisible brethren that help the music get from bands to your ear. Welcome to the world of Rarely Unable. – Bearded Magazine
Here’s just some of the many highlights from Rarely Unable (and beyond) this year. I’ve selected a bunch of tracks from albums that left their mark, and could have picked so many more. Thanks to IHeartNoise for giving me the opportunity to put this mix together.
Anna Von Hausswolff – The Mysterious Vanishing Of Electra (City Slang)
I’m kicking things off with the incredibly talented Anna Von Hausswolff, and although this isn’t from our roster of artists, this is one of my favorite songs of the year. I bought the vinyl on the back of hearing it for the first time. The live performance at The Dome in London was tremendous, I really felt the power of the music and it moved me.
Further Reading: Echoes and Dust | All Things Loud | musicOMH | Immortal Reviews
Daughters – City Song (Ipecac)
To be honest, I could have picked any one of the songs on this album as my favourites fluctuate. I love absolutely everything about it, from the incredible attention to detail in the composition of sounds across the album, to the profound lyrics. Certainly in my mind, Daughters made one of the most surprising albums of 2018.
Further Reading: Everything is Noise | Treble | Northern Transmissions | Dead End Follies
Carla Bozulich – Let It Roll (feat John Eichenseer & Andrea Belfi) (Constellation)
The musical output of Carla Bozulich is totally staggering. Carla is one of the most fearless, uncompromising and striking musicians of our time. And Quieter is another brilliant record with some impressive collaborators. In Carla’s words Let It Roll is “the most honest work I’ve ever done” – this searing album opener certainly has had a lasting impression on me.
Further Reading: Bearded | NARC | Nowamuzyka.pl | Mowno
Lucretia Dalt – Edge (RVNG Intl)
Here’s another artist who isn’t part of the RU roster however I’m totally bowled over by the album Anticlines which came out this year on RVNG Intl. I discovered Lucretia Dalt at Le Guess Who? Festival on my first visit there this year. I wandered into the room as she was playing this song and I was hooked. The more I read up about Lucretia, the more intrigued I become.
Further Reading: Media Loca | The Wire | AQNB | CLOT
Jaye Jayle – Accepting (Sargent House)
Jaye Jayle’s album No Trail And Other Unholy Paths is full of wonderful sounds. When I first encountered it, there were some album notes which suggested that you don’t necessarily have to listen to this in a linear way, so I made a point of listening to the album with the sequence shuffled, and interestingly I found it shifted the impact that the songs had on me at different points in time. This particular song was one that always, always resonated strongly.
HHY & The Macumbas – Wilderness Of Glass (House Of Mythology)
This album was a revelation for me from the moment I first heard it. There are points of reference that I can detect from elements of particular tracks but taken as a whole entity, it is certainly not characteristic of anything in particular I’ve heard and I love that. Percussive, peculiar, propulsive, mysterious, and most definitely very special. This epic album opener seems like a good place to begin this voyage of discovery as I did earlier this year. And another collective who intrigue the more I read about them.
Further Reading: Swordfish | Burning Ambulance | News From Neptune Music | Lore
The Body – Nothing Stirs (Thrill Jockey)
I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer captured all the essential flavours of The Body’s singular sound in one album entity, and it is brilliant. This song is brooding, dramatic and features the incredible vocal presence of Kristin Hayter, who’s solo output I’m also extremely fond of. But more on that later… The Body’s live performance with Thou at Roadburn this year was by far one of my highlights of the festival, and the London show with Lightning Bolt was probably the best I’ve ever seen them.
Further Reading: SLUG Magazine | Spectrum Culture | Astral Noize | Zware Metalen
Nordra – The Commercial (SIGE Records)
SIGE records had a pretty wonderful output of albums this year, and the album Pylon II from Monika Knot aka Nordra certainly left a lasting impression on me. Using an array of instruments and samples Monika creates sounds inspired by architectural design and surveillance. To me, this song The Commercial really taps into the idea of surveillance in the age of algorithms and ‘smart’ technology. The song itself is put together so cleverly, even if the effects are somewhat disturbing.
Further Reading: The Wire | Scene Point Blank | Fire in Fog | Tectonic Marrow Society
Current 93 – Bright Dead Star (The Spheres)
In 2017 Current 93 spread around a short trailer video eluding to a new album, but we had to wait until October 2018 for it to arrive. The Light Is Leaving Us All is well worth the wait though, it is a masterpiece, and this song could well be one of the most beautiful songs that David has written – his vocals sound superb. Current 93’s release show at a packed out Shepherds Bush show this year was also one of the best live shows for me this year.
Further Reading: Heathen Harvest | Circuit Sweet | Crack Magazine | Impatto Sonoro
Shirley Collins – Cruel Lincoln (Domino)
Shirley Collins’ Lodestar album was released in 2016, however her performance at Supersonic Festival 2018 was one of the most splendid things I saw and brought me on the verge of tears, her talk about the book she released this year on Strange Attractor also moved me. Therefore I felt that when reflecting on my highlights of 2018, including this was a must.
Further Reading: RootsWorld | Folk Radio UK | Sound on Sound | Roundhouse
Papa M – Shimmers (Drag City)
One of the best things about the work that I do is getting to know the people behind the music, and often this involves conversing about music and other passions. David Pajo is a really interesting and deeply talented soul, fascinated with composition and trying out different approaches to create a real depth of sound. And that is exactly what we have across his latest album A Broke Moon Rises, Shimmers for me is a great testament to his adventurous spirit and wonderful guitar playing.
Further Reading: Soundblab | Echoes and Dust | A Closer Listen | Sentireascoltare
Jozef Van Wissem – Once More With Feeling (Crammed Discs)
I’m bending the rules again slightly here, Jozef Van Wissem released a sublime new album of original lute compositions this year on Consouling Sounds, called We Adore You, You Have No Name. My song selection however is actually taken from It Is Time For You To Return (Made To Measure Vol. 40) which has become for me a real live favorite, having had the pleasure of seeing him perform twice this year. The repetition of the melody is beautiful and puts a beam on my face every time I hear it, I’ve loved watching Jozef play it too.
Further Reading: Flood | Dusted | Slug Mag | Tiny Mix Tapes
The Primals – Dead Predators (Southern Lord)
The Primals’ debut album All Love Is True Love is another totally infectious album that I played over and over this year. Louder Sound put it best when they said “one of the best power pop records in years…gleeful and brilliant…Channeling Redd Kross’ soaring harmonies, The Posies’ taste for sugary darkness and Kurt Cobain’s ability to disguise an arsenal of irresistible hooks under a barrage of pounding fuzz, the album rips up grunge’s 90s roots and replants them for a modern audience.”. Couldn’t have put it better myself!
Further Reading: Punk Rock Theory | The Ringmaster Review | No Echo | NRC
Eagle Twin – Heavy Hoof (Southern Lord)
I’ve long been an appreciator of Eagle Twin’s output since their album The Unkindness Of Crows, and The Ballad Of Job Cain Pt1 track which appears on The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale is still a firm favourite of mine. Gentry Densley’s vocals are like an instrument. The duo are supremely heavy with a powerful punch of rhythm from Tyler Smith and monster riffs, but its their heavy blues groove which makes them particularly appealing to me. I’m also really tuned into the folkloric aspect of their lyrics, and deeply appreciate the stories they tell. Heavy Hoof happens to be one of the first songs they wrote yet it didn’t appear on record until this year’s The Thundering Heard (Songs Of Hoof And Horn).
Further Reading: Indy Metal Vault | Heavy Blog is Heavy | Angry Metal Guy | Two Guys Metal Reviews
Chrch – Aether (Neurot)
Chrch were another revelation for me, I hadn’t come across them before they signed to Neurot this year. The Sacramento group masterfully balance many shades of dark and light. The songs take me on a journey, packed with a dynamic range of sounds, and the vocals are really powerful too.
Further Reading: The Sludgelord | Distorted Sound | Earsplit PR | GBHBL
Thou – Transcending Dualities (Sacred Bones)
Thou had a very prolific year indeed releasing three EPs and a new full length Magus on which this especially crushing, and expansive song is taken, it was a firm favourite from first listen and remains so even now. Thou can be so transformative both live and on record, and I really look forward to what they do next, and who they collaborate with next.
Further Reading: Post-Trash | Svbterranean | Killyourstereo | Aural Aggravation
Lingua Ignota – Woe To All (On The Day Of My Wrath) (Profound Lore)
This totally epic track to me showcases everything that is brilliant about Kristin Hayter / Lingua Ignota. The album All Bitches Die was reissued this year on Profound Lore and it featured heavily on rotation. Kristin produces work that I believe is vital and necessary, and to say Im anticipating the next album in 2019 would be a huge understatement.
Further Reading: Opus Zine | Morbidly Beautiful | Vinyl Diaries | Une Etoille Dans La Gorge
Less Bells – Bombardment (Kranky)
Kranky have an absolute knack for discovering real gems, they shine a light on some really interesting artists I’ve never heard of. The sublime debut full length Solifuge by Less Bells continues to intrigue me, and this song Bombardment is the epitome of what I like about nuanced minimalist music, totally beautiful, and with a stirring climax.
Further Reading: Echoes and Dust | HearFeel | Plattentests.de | Kulturni Magazin Uni
Randall Dunn – A True Home (feat. Zola Jesus) (figureight Records)
I’ve known Randall for such a long time now and long admired the music he turns his hands to. Randall is deeply invested in some incredible records as a producer, musician and engineer. The debut solo record Beloved surpassed my high expectations, and this beautiful album closer seemed like a fitting end to this playlist also. If you can, do check out the incredible accompanying video (short film) for the song, directed by Mu Tunc.
Further Reading: The Reykjavik Grapevine | Sacred Script | Bear Tree Records | Undertoner
On a Different Note:
- Guest Mix // Sam Wade’s 5 Favorite Songs from 2019 + 5 Old Favorites
- Guest Mix – Reuben Bettsak (Guillermo Sexo)
- Review: Rootless – Live at Rhizome
- Review – Gary Wilson – Let's Go to Outer Space
- Around 2018 in 12 Weeks: Albums That Mean Something by Christopher Whitby