Once I’d chosen my top albums of the individual years of the decade (14 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 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.
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.
In 2017 I’ve listened to over 100 albums, mainly while working in the office at home, but occasionally I’ve had the luxury of simply relaxing and listening with headphones and a nice cuppa.
My top ten commercial albums are as follows (in alphabetical order):
Alison Krauss: Windy City
Brian Eno: Reflection
Foo Fighters: Concrete and Gold
Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology
Laura Marling: Semper Femina
Rick Wakeman: Piano Portraits
Robert Plant: Carry Fire
The War On Drugs: A Deeper Understanding
The albums that just missed out reaching the top ten are the latest releases by Noel and Liam Gallagher. Let’s hope they overcome their differences and get together again soon, this would be sensational!
I’ve not listened to many live albums, but my favourite (with associated DVD) is David Gilmour: Live at Pompeii.
Whilst not being a particular favourite, I think Every Valley by Public Service Broadcasting deserves a special mention. It’s a concept album which focuses on a topic of modern history (like the band’s previous work), namely the mining industry in Wales, more specifically the rise and decline of the coal industry.
I listen, buy and download independent albums on Bandcamp, my top five are:
Cousin Silas: Landscapes
Cousin Silas & Martin Neuhold: Piano
Cousin Silas & Øystein Jørgensen: Coefficient of Variation
Linnea: Finding Light In The Dark
William Doyle: Lightnesses
Why not check these releases out and let me know what you think? Here’s looking forward to 2018’s new releases!
Oxford Dictionaries decided that the word post-truth (or is that two words?) should be Word of the Year for 2016. They define it as an adjective ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. Two major news events of 2016 illustrate how untruths (or should I just say lies?) were an an illustration of this; namely, the debate prior to the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union and the campaign that resulted in the election of Donald Trump in the United States of America (even if he didn’t win the popular vote).
Many people were surprised by these two events, and one explanation is the so-called social media bubble. This is a phenomenon which links us to like-minded friends and others; sharing and liking similar news stories, views and opinions. The algorithms of Facebook (and the like) decide our friends for us, those with similar views. Yes, this goes on in the everyday world, but the effect is magnified by the very nature of the medium. It’s like living in an echo chamber.
Many were surprised by Brexit and Trump because they weren’t aware of many people who favoured them, they just weren’t in their circle of friends, or possibly kept quiet. Add to this the problem of hoaxes, fake news and unreliable quotes, and things can get quite messy. What is truth in a post-truth world after all? Falsehoods are easily spread by people unwilling (or too busy) to make a simple check of their veracity – Google can be your friend, or possibly your false-friend in a post-truth world, who knows anymore? See also Spotting hoaxes and scams online.
In the space of two days I’ve heard both Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson speak about the feature on Amazon that shows what other people bought after you’ve made a purchase. Another example of the bubble effect? Wouldn’t it be better to have a reverse filter suggesting what they didn’t buy? We can so easily inhabit a social media echo chamber. Shouldn’t we be reaching out those with different opinions to our own and seeking to understand? Just my recent reflections, but what do you think? Do you possibly disagree with me? That’s OK, right?
In any normal year The Ship by Brian Eno would be my favourite album of the year but for three outstanding albums released in 2016 which top it.
All my top three albums deserve the number one spot, and each of them have been number one at some time in the last few weeks. So I’m going to bottle out and give all three joint number one status, listing in order of release. They each have qualities that make them deserving of being number one.
David Bowie‘s twenty-fifth and final studio album Blackstar was released on his 69th birthday Friday 8 January 2016, two days later his death was announced. Blackstar is his swan song and parting gift. It’s a remarkable piece of work and the track Lazarus is my favourite single track of the year. The picture is imagery from the album simply because, of the three albums, this is the most significant.
Radiohead‘s ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool was released in May with minimal promotion, namely two songs and associated videos the week before. Several songs date back a number of years, one right back to 1995. It can be described as an art-rock album, notable for acoustic guitar and piano timbres and some wonderful choral and string arrangements.
The third album in my top three is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds‘ sixteenth studio album Skeleton Tree, a follow-up to their excellent 2013 album Push the Sky Away (my favourite album of that year). The album is not an easy listen, but worth the effort. Most of the album had been written at the time of Cave’s son’s death, but several lyrics were amended by Cave during subsequent recording sessions and feature themes of death, loss and personal grief (Wikipedia).
Let me know what you think of my choices, and why not share your favourites?
Widely regarded as a return to form, Dystopia by American heavy-metal band Megadeth is my number 10 album of the year. Back to their roots, and number 9 in my top ten, Blue & Lonesome by The Rolling Stones. Soulsville by the wonderful Beverley Knight comes in at number 8. Atomic by Scottish post-rock band Mogwai is number 7. A progressive rock marriage made in heaven, Invention of Knowledge by Jon Anderson & Roine Stolt is number 6 in my favourites. Sadly taken from us this year, number 5 is You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen.
My top 3 features in a separate post. In any normal year the final album here would probably be my number 1, but for 3 outstanding albums released in 2016 which top it, so The Ship by Brian Eno is my number 4.