Once I’d chosen my top albums of the individual years of the decade (15 albums in total with joint-favourites) the album of the decade just shouted out at me!
Blackstar (stylised as ★) by David Bowie was released on 8 January 2016 (Bowie’s 69th birthday). Two days later, he died of liver cancer; his illness had not been revealed to the public until then. Co-producer Tony Visconti described the album as Bowie’s intended swan song and a “parting gift” for his fans before his death. Staying true to himself, he again produced something new and unique.
The album is remarkable in that David Bowie turns his own death into a work of art. Without discussion or question, it’s my album of the decade.
2010 Gorillaz: Plastic Beach
2011 Björk: Biophilia
2011 Radiohead: The King of Limbs
2012 Sigur Rós: Valtari
2013 Black Sabbath: 13
2013 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away
2014 Thom Yorke: Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
2015 Public Service Broadcasting: The Race for Space
2016 David Bowie: Blackstar
2016 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree
2016 Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool
2017 Brian Eno: Reflection
2018 Nils Frahm: All Melody
2019 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen
2019 Thom Yorke: Anima
This is the remarkable video of the song Lazarus from Blackstar.
There have been some great independent albums released this year, but one stands out as my favourite: William Doyle’s Your Wilderness Revisited.
These are others I have particularly enjoyed:
ambienteer: lost | found
The Collective: The Glow of an Old Valve
Cousin Silas: Short Stories 4
Cousin Silas: Soft Focus – Guitarscapes Volume 1
Dronal: Internal Motion
James Hoehl: Cosmic Oblivion
Martin Neuhold: Ende / Anfang
Robert Farrugia: Adrift
Robert Otto: Dreams
I discover independent music through Bandcamp, you can find my collection here.
See my favourite commercial albums here.
My feeling this year (you may disagree of course) is that there have been lots of good albums, so it’s hard to pin down. For me, there are two outstanding albums that are my joint number one commercial album. Because there have been so many, this year I’m doing my top 20 instead of my usual top 10, and even that wasn’t easy!
Ghosteen by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is the final part of a trilogy of albums released in the last few years, it is simply an astonishing album. In his first album wholly written since the death of his son, Cave reaches an extraordinary, sad and beautiful artistic evolution.
Anima by Thom Yorke has been described as “full of wraithlike frequencies and fibrillating pulses” in Pitchfork. The wonderful track Dawn Chorus is a “reverential song about loss, nostalgia, and regret” with “hushed”, almost-spoken vocals.
Above & Beyond: Flow State
Alice Merton: Mint
Angel Olsen: All Mirrors
Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars
Cate le Bon: Reward
Ed Sheeran: No.6 Collaborations Project
Ezra Collective: You Can’t Steal My Joy
FKA Twigs: Magdalene
Gloria Gaynor: Testimony
Jane Weaver: Loops in the Secret Society
Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen
Nils Frahm: All Encores
Sheryl Crow: Threads
Sigur Rós: Liminal Sleep
Steeleye Span: Est’d 1969
Steve Hackett: At the Edge of Light
StuckFish: The Watcher
Thom Yorke: Anima
Wildwood Kin: Wildwood Kin
Thom Yorke – Dawn Chorus ⏪ ↻ from Janja MIjalkovic on Vimeo.
Finally, two releases deserve special mention:
Brian Eno: Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983) Extended Edition (2019)
Radiohead: MINIDISKS [HACKED]
See my favourite independent albums here.
Naomi and I watched Baby Driver recently and thoroughly enjoyed it, although it’s somewhat violent and sweary at times (not for the faint-hearted or easily offended). Overall it’s very stylish, stands out from the crowd and keeps your attention, although the script was ordinary and some of the characters could have been better defined.
A talented, young getaway driver relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. When he meets the girl of his dreams, Baby sees a chance to ditch his criminal life and make a clean getaway. (Bing search).
I particularly appreciated the soundtrack as this was an integral part of the storyline in a way I’ve not come across before, rather than (as is usual) accompaniment to the action and helping to set the mood.
The movie stars Ansel Elgort, Lily James, and Kevin Spacey (are we still allowed to watch his movies in the light of recent events?) amongst others. In fact, the reason Naomi bought the DVD was because it starred Lily James, who plays the young Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
The whole time I was waiting for the song Baby Driver by Simon and Garfunkel from their album Bridge Over Troubled Water; but I needn’t have worried, it starts before and plays through the end credits.
Note: I’ve created the soundtrack on Spotify, click here.
Fragile Earth by Mixtaped Monk (also known as Arka Sengupta) is one of my favourite independent albums of 2018; I loved it the minute I first heard it.
I’ll let him describe it: Imagine waking up one day and discovering that there are no human beings present around you. You have all the essential supplies of the world at your disposal. But you are left to fend for yourself. What would you feel? How would you react? What would you do with your time? How would you lead the rest of your life? Will you accept your fate? Or would you ceaselessly search for others like you?
Inspired by a dream a dear friend of mine had once, “Vacant Earth” tries to answer the questions mentioned above. Through sounds (and their associated emotions) the album tries to relate the story I imagined, with me as the protagonist, when my friend had first told me about her dream. Sonically, the album borders around post-rock, neo-classical and ambient music.
Note: You can see all my favourite albums in 2018 here.
There’s not much that hasn’t already been said about David Bowie, who was taken from us three years ago and who would have been 72 years old today; but I didn’t want the milestone to go unmentioned.
I’ve always been fascinated by his music, his creativity, changes of style, his collaborations, and his determination to set trends rather than follow them. An example of the latter is that while punk was happening, he was at the Hansa Studio in Berlin crafting a totally new sound for what became the Low album.
While working in the office at home today, I enjoyed listening to David Bowie’s Glastonbury appearance in 2000 on Spotify. There’s a great selection of his songs, some of which (for example, Hallo Spaceboy) I prefer to hear live. I well remember watching his set at the time on television, one of the truly great Glastonbury performances.
Note: This might possibly have been my favourite live album of 2018 had I heard it during the year, as it happens another Bowie live album to that accolade. See here.
I don’t know about you, but for me, 2018 hasn’t been the greatest year for new commercial music; but of the 91 albums I’ve listened to, here are my top ten (in alphabetical order):
David Byrne: American Utopia
Johnny Marr: Call the Comet
Mogwai: Kin [Soundtrack]
Nils Frahm: All Melody
Ólafur Arnalds: re:member
Paul McCartney: Egypt Station
Paul Weller: True Meanings
Roger Eno: Dust of Stars
The Good, the Bad & the Queen: Merrie England
Tony Bennett & Diana Krall: Love Is Here to Stay
Although not a particular favourite, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by the Arctic Monkeys deserves special mention. It features a rich sound embodying lounge pop, space pop, glam rock and psychedelic pop, as well as elements of jazz. It’s a major departure from the band’s previous guitar-heavy sound, an album less accessible than their previous work (which I prefer) and one which has divided fans.
My favourite live album is:
David Bowie: Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78)
Despite what I’ve said about commercial albums in 2018, it’s been another great year for independent music and (out of the 45 albums I’ve listened to) here are my top ten (again in alphabetical order):
Cousin Silas: Short Stories, Short Stories 2 & Short Stories 3 (3 albums as 1 choice)
Cousin Silas: Unlimited Boundaries
Cousin Silas & Kevin Buckland: Sacred Space
Cousin Silas & Kevin Lyons: The Fortean Project
Martin Neuhold: Embraced by Dusk
Martin Neuhold & Cousin Silas: Piano 2
Mixtaped Monk: Vacant Earth
Øystein Jørgensen: Sea Of Thoughts
Phillip Wilkerson: Reveries
Scott Lawlor: Remnants of Winter Memories
You can find my Bandcamp music collection here.
Let me know what you think about my favourites, and maybe share your favourites. Here’s already looking forward to what 2019 will bring.
Note: Another Bowie release might possibly have been my favourite live album had I heard it during the year, you can read about it here.