Apocalypse (Jack Hertz)

Jack Hertz has been composing and recording for more than thirty years. He’s fascinated by all aspects of creating sound, from the earliest instruments to the present day hardware and software innovations. I’ve been listening to his albums for many years now, and one of his albums (released in two versions) features one of my photos (see note below).

His January 2021 album Apocalypse: Lifting of the Veil is one of my favourites of the year, comprising eight imaginative soundscapes. You can see all my favourite albums of 2021 by clicking here.

An apocalypse is a revelation: seeing something which has been hidden. It comes from the Greek word, Apokálypsis, which means “lifting of the veil”, or finding out something secret. Often this secret is discovered in a dream or a vision. Bandcamp

Note: The album, with my photo on the cover, mentioned above is available in two versions, Gilded Skies and Gilded Sky (click on the links).

Submerged (Cousin Silas)

Having finished writing about my favourite albums of 2020, it’s time to turn to 2021. Submerged by Cousin Silas is my first favourite album of 2021. These are some wonderful ambient soundscapes in which to immerse yourself and release your imagination. You can stream and/or download the album here.

Cousin Silas writes: Abandoned villages, for me, are fascinating places. The lost history, the forgotten lives and the long gone murmur of rural life. What I find more intriguing, however, are those select few villages that have been lost with coastal erosion, or abandoned due to the valley where they were situated being ‘converted’ into reservoirs. In some cases parts of the buildings occasionally, during droughts or low tides, emerge. Urban legends of bells tolling from the old church, be that submerged or managing to breath again as the water slowly recedes.

All seven tracks are named, and partially inspired, by submerged villages. Obviously there are many more across the UK, but most featured are relatively ‘local’, or at least in Yorkshire and there’s varying degrees of information about them on the Internet. Who’d have thought you could learn history whilst submerging yourself in music? Bandcamp

You can see all my favourite albums of 2021 by clicking here.

See also: Lost (Cousin Silas)

Serpentine Prison (Matt Berninger)

You’ve probably guessed that I enjoy listening to new albums, as well as discovering old music that’s new to me.

I find out about new albums from a variety of sources, and sometimes I kick myself for missing one – like Earth by Ed O’Brien. But, this debut album by Matt Berninger of The National, is one I didn’t miss! It was recommended to me by Anisa Subedar, a friend I haven’t met in real life yet.

I immediately liked the overall sound of the album and the fascinating lyrics, and it’s one of my favourites of 2020. The album was produced by the legendary Booker T. Jones and features Gail Ann Dorsey (probably best know as David Bowie‘s bass player from 1995 until his death in 2016) in one song.

Serpentine Prison isn’t the drastic change of pace that many frontmen create when they do a project outside of their main band, but it does enough to justify itself as separate from The National’s catalog. At the same time, longtime fans of the group will undoubtedly feel at home here, too, while also admiring what Berninger does differently. It’s not all equally captivating or distinctive, but it is consistently moving, tasteful, and alluring, promising something even greater when Berninger returns for his sophomore solo sequence. Jordan Blum

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

See also: Melting Pot (Booker T Jones)

Song for Our Daughter

Song for Our Daughter by Laura Marling is a wonderfully mature and polished album, it’s one of my favourites of 2020. She writes songs for her fictional daughter, and by implication, her former self. She was inspired by Maya Angelou‘s book Letter to My Daughter.

The accompaniment is stripped right back to create an intimate sound, her accomplished playing and singing is always central with some beautiful harmonies and melodies.

This is one of a number of albums I’ve discovered this year because they were nominated for the Mercury Prize 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Inner Song (Kelly Lee Owens)

This wonderful album became one of my favourites of 2020 on first hearing, especially as the opening track is a superb instrumental cover of a Radiohead song.

The unexpected opening track, a wordless cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” offers a sort of formal thesis statement. Owens’ interpretation emphasizes the Steve Reich-like qualities of Jonny Greenwood’s guitar line, stretching it into an undulating synthesizer pattern. Forgoing vocals, she distills the song’s harmonic essence, stripping it down to emphasize a single part of the whole, evoking a state of trance-like contemplation until a jittery breakbeat crashes through. Pitchfork

Kelly Lee Owens is a Welsh electronic musician and producer, who skilfully combines multiple genres in one perfectly formed album. This is a beautiful piece of work, and ideal for evening listening.

One track features vocals from John Cale in both English and Welsh, this collaboration and the inclusion of the Welsh language was a means to connect with her Welsh heritage.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Honey For Wounds (Ego Ella May)

As the title suggests, this album is one to soothe troubled spirits in a challenging world, even when addressing tough issues in today’s society. It’s one of my favourite albums of 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Ego Ella May is a British songwriter and vocalist from South London. She has an all-encompassing love of music, which she channels into her own neo-soul and contemporary jazz compositions. She boasts a rich, mature sound, one that belies her years.

You can find the album on Bandcamp (and other streaming services) and an excellent review here.

Myopia (Agnes Obel)

The Independent has described this wonderful album by Agnes Obel as one “to experience alone, and there’s a comfort to being pulled into Myopia’s contemplative, isolating territory”. Snuggle up with your favourite earphones/headphones (with drink of choice) and allow this album to embrace you for forty minutes. It’s one of my favourites of 2020, and one which could have easily taken the top spot had I not gone for more upbeat albums.

Obel explained the meaning of Myopia: “For me Myopia is an album about trust and doubt. Can you trust yourself or not? Can you trust your own judgments? Can you trust that you will do the right thing? Can you trust your instincts and what you are feeling? Or are your feelings skewed?” Obel puts a feeling of quiet and gentleness in her music, […] which was the guiding concept of her previous album. The album contains a new sense of solitude instrumentalism and vocals, as well as departing from her upbeat early albums. Obel stated the album was sparked by a struggle to escape her “own tunnel vision”. Wikipedia.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Spook the Herd

Spook the Herd is an elegant and eloquent album by British indie rock band Lanterns on the Lake, one that has been described as a soundtrack for the age of anxiety. It’s one of my favourite albums of 2020.

Although this is their fourth studio album, I’ve not come across them before, despite living just down the road from their home of Newcastle for five years. They’ve been gracefully holding up a mirror to the world for a while, their music reflecting northern communities in decay and the effects of austerity, with calls for both to be resisted, for example.

This album touches on addiction, division, bereavement, social media, the environmental crisis, and climate change, with a reminder to make the most of what we can, while we can. Empowerment and love are key to the challenges we face, changing ourselves and changing the world. This is a thoughtful and reflective album, expressed beautifully.

This is one of a number of albums I’ve discovered this year because they were nominated for the Mercury Prize 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.