This year I shifted further from just listening progressive rock and metal, reawakening my 90’s love for the afro-jazz subgenre, exploring further into spiritual jazz. I picked up several underground hip-hop albums without finding any clear favorites, meditating to soothing ambient, and feeling the pain in noisy electronica. I’ve decided to keep my list numberless this year, as each of these records touched me in very different ways.
The album that got the most spin this year was probably The Comet is Coming with Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery. The London-based group followed up their 2016 debut with groovy psychedelic nu-jazz, with track five and six as my personal highlights. Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings impressed everyone in 2018 with his other band Sons of Kemet, absolutely a musician to watch out for in the coming years.
The South Korean band 잠비나이 (Jambinai) put out my fav post-rock music this year with 온다 (Onda). An album filled with melodious songs, played with traditional Korean instruments. A record that made me curious about other instrumental folk bands from this region.
The Swiss band Monkey3 dropped their fifth record Sphere in the spring, taking me back to favorite bands like Gong and Hidria Spacefolk. Driving bass lines, heavy psych, and epic guitar solos. What more can you ask for?
One album I found a bit odd didn’t get more traction when it was released in late January, was Czech newcomer Ions with their self-titled debut. Blending the sound of late 80s, early 90s progressive metal bands like Queensrÿche and Fates Warning with the sound of djent and newer prog metal. This was a killer album, with an awesome vocalist covering both the clean and harsh vocal ranges.
Among electronica artists, UK’s Leyland Kirby aka The Caretaker added the sixth entry to his opus Everywhere at the End of Time. A rather saddening piece of music, portraying the mind of an alzheimer patient, slowly losing their memories and fading into obscurity. Personally I recommend to listen to this massive undertaking from its beginning, Stage 1, released back in 2016. With stage 6 the work is now clocking in on over six hours.
For those of us who could get a new Haken album pretty much every year, guitarist Richard Henshall at least shortened our impatience to a runner-up for 2018’s Vector with The Cocoon.
Their 2012 debut put Thank You Scientist on any serious prog rock-lover’s map. Unfortuanely I didn’t really get into their follow-up, but on this year’s Terraformer the New Jersey-band once again showed some great songwriting skills, stealing the sounds of their favorite music, putting their very own brand on them.
It may be sheer ignorance, but I didn’t pick up on this French band until last year’s Sus. Poil makes experimental rock with marvelous melodic parts that sporadically emerges, and gets you excited while you engulf yourself in their playful creations.
No, I didn’t pick up Opeth’s In Cauda Venenum this year, as the band has let me down album after album for over a decade now, so what’s the point. As a “substitute” I did listen to American band Wilderun‘s third record. Not that far off from the Swedes in their heydays, Veil of Imaginations well thought out combination of symphonic death metal and folk music caught my attention, and a bunch of spins from start to finish.
The last entry on my list for 2019 best albums was an album you could listen to at full volume, lay down and medidate to. Yup, American artist Rafael Anton Irisarri made a soothing ambient piece of work with loads of minimal sounds you needed to be totally relaxed to pick up on. Solastalgia kind of reminded me of Biosphere’s early works in the mid 90’s, with a mystical and natural feel to it.