It has been another great music year. I have reviewed and introduced 106 new albums in my blog, all of which I have enjoyed, fully or partly. I have listened to as many that I haven’t liked and spared you the agony. Which is the whole idea behind my blog: I hunt for the best new music, so you don’t have to. Below are, in alphabetical order, 15 of the 25 albums that I have enjoyed the most this year (with excerpts from my reviews.)Not necessarily the best in terms of quality, but the music that has given me most enjoyment personally. Click the green heading and the album is there for you to listen to.
This ought to keep you busy until Christmas. After Christmas I will give you my top 10, measured and weighted the same way.
If it hadn’t been for The Beatles, perhaps Kinks would have been the world’s most loved pop group of the 60s, but they always came in second, which is saying nothing about the fabulous pop music they left us with. Their genius frontman Ray Davies – now Sir Ray Davies – is not only rereleasing old masterpieces; he is making new ones. Americana is truly a brilliant album, filled to the brim with storytelling from America, both personal and other people’s stories. He hasn’t lost the knack for composing great pop tunes on the way and seems to have been inspired, not limited, by sticking to a concept.
» Charlotte dos Santos has been a friend of our family since she was a young girl, and I have been fortunate enough to follow the development of a great talent, but even I was taken aback when I heard her debut album, Cleo. She dares to try out musical styles that she is interested in herself, without paying any attention to what is pc for a debuting artist, which is why Charlotte is impossible to typecast within a musical genre. Maybe that is why this album will be the first of many. »
«The War on Drugs … (is) inspired by country but still safely placed in rock territory. There is true passion in the songs, and a vulnerability in Kurt Vile’s voice that always catches my ear. I have to admit I listen less and less often to bands, but The War on Drugs, and their new album A Deeper Understanding, push me back in band territory.»
«…Salvador Sobral (this year’s winner of Eurovision Song Contest) is like a breath of fresh air in a music business to a great extent taken over by format composers. He encompasses everything this list is all about.»
» On to …. Norway, and the indie band Hajk, one of this autumn´s most pleasant surprises for me. The band does not stick to one genre, but flirts with many, from ballads to jazz to funk to pop, and does it all well, great songwriting, even greater performances.»
» Jake Bugg became an overnight sensation a few years ago, with his slightly trembling voice , moody look and catchy songs. Now he is back with an exquisite album, Hearts that Strain, and all my scepticism is burnt away from the first track. The album was recorded in Nashville, and you can hear the influence of musicians who know how to communicate and have done it for a long time. Bugg is more than a one-hit wonder. «
«An… intense and insisting voice belongs to Courtney Marie Andrews from Arizona. At the outset she sounds like a folk singer, but the music on Honest Life transcends folk. It took awhile before I was won over, but now I hear new things with every listen, and you will find me humming Irene or other songs if you sneaked into my car without my knowing.»
» Romy Madly Croft of The xx is one of the most listened-to voices in the world at the moment. Her duets with Oliver Sim make up the sound of this ultra-modern band, still rooted in music from previous decades. There is something really vulnerable in the band’s music that I believe touches something in listeners of all ages. Their second album, I See You, will obviously end up on most best-of-lists this year. Listen to it anyway. It might even end up on mine. «
«Ane Brun’s … album Leave Me Breathless is (..) a tribute to yesterday’s catalogue of classics, but she has in many ways used the songs as inspiration and almost created new songs out of some of the soppiest songs of the 80s. The result is remarkable, very touching and emotional.»
» I have attended quite a number of concerts with Molecules… primarily because my daughter Karoline Wallace is the vocalist and her partner Petter Asbjørnsen the bass player. Believe me, listening to Molecules is something I do with pleasure. Yes, it might be labelled modern jazz, but the playfulness, the musicality, the flirt with rhythms and melodies, make much of the music accessible for people outside of the small modern jazz circle. Their album Louder than You, with Norway’s brilliantly inventive pianist Erlend Skomsvoll, has received rave reviews from jazz reviewers.»
» Lorde from New Zealand … has already developed immensely as an artist, following what easily could have been a solitary massive hit, Royals, a few years back. Her new album, Melodrama, is an outpouring of self-confidence and young energy; it is just impossible not to be riveted by the rhythms and by the originality of both performance and songwriting. Lorde is here to stay. «
» ….In Amazon Prime’s TV drama series The Man in the High Castle, Nazi Germany and Japan won WWII and divided the US between them, and we are entering the story in the 1960s, with some of the great music that actually came out of that decade. You’re bound to recognize a good few of the songs, here performed by Sharon van Etten, Beck, Sam Cohen, Michael Kiwanuka, Grandaddy, Kevin Morby and Maybird. The atmosphere in the tracks gives me the chill. So does the series. «
» There is nothing wrong being inspired by other artists, and jazz singers tend to rely on a songbook of standards when picking their material. Lori Cullen has gone one step further, and let two of her fellow countrymen, her husband Kurt Swinghammer and composer/singer Ron Sexsmith , produce and write her new album, Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs, from start to finish. Cullen’s lovely, airy and summerwind-swinging voice fits the songs like a glove. «
» Hannah Reid of London Grammar has a voice truly out of the ordinary, with a rare strength and range. Their second album, Truth is a Beautiful Thing, delivers on the promise of the first, and then some. There is something almost divine about Reid’s sad vocal as it surrounds and wraps itself around you. It is just so beautiful. «
» … Miley Cyrus (has gone from) from Disney princess to fullblown adult artist. I loved her previous album Bangerz as well, but Younger Now places her on the map of artists that are here to stay. She no longer caters to her teenage audience only, if at all? Here are strong vocals, influences from all over the place, including a duet with Dolly Parton, would you believe. The album is a true treasure chest.»