September 2017, Best Rock Album of the Month: The Tower by Motorpsycho

When I was a student at the University, more than 20 years ago, Motorpsycho reached for me the status of a cult band and every year or so they repeated the rite of releasing a new album, which for me used to become a new relic to be worshiped. Between 1994 and 1998, in particular, this trio of Norwegian rockers released 4 albums that marked the “renaissance” of progressive rock in the ’90s. Their music was just wonderful. They played a genuine, engaging and exciting rock, a music gifted by a level of creativity that was really outside the boundaries of the human being,  with a powerful and devastating sound. In short, a myth. The story tells that at some point in their career the band faced a musical turn and the magic of those years was never to be repeated, probably not only because of their music but also because it was also my life that changed. Through the years I have continued to follow their steps, perhaps with less transport and passion but always with great interest. Their prolificity has been somewhat slowed, but they have continued to produce albums with a certain frequency. Recently, for some years now, their music is coming back to touch some special strings of my sensitivity and today, with their new work The Tower, it is as if they are again approaching that part of my body that is more sensitive to their music.

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The current lineup of the band features only two members of the original formation: Bent Sæther (lead vocals and bass) and Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan (guitars) and last year also the “young” drummer who supported the last 7 albums left the group to be replaced by  Tomas Järmyr from Zu, who was presented as the new permanent drummer of the band.

Kenneth Kapstad’s June 2016 departure from Motorpsycho left the remaining psychos Hans Magnus Ryan and Bent Sæther fending for themselves. An almost ten-year ride was over, and things were again changing in the Psychoverse. (Motorpsycho)

But as often happens with the rock groups, the arrival of a new member must have activated a new vein of creativity because the latest work from Motorpsycho is really amazing and full of so many  musical ideas that it really seem to be back to the magical period of their career.

Overall, as expected, this album is a massive piece that requires time to truly sink in. There is plenty to enjoy here and its sunny atmosphere is, so to speak, only occasionally blocked by clouds. For your yearly Motorpsycho fix, this is a magnificent journey. (Sputnik Music)

The Tower is definitely a must have LP, both for long-term fans and for those who have never come across this incredible band. We are talking about one of the most influential formations for contemporary rock, and with this record they only confirm the reason why.

 

Surviving yet another change in personnel, Motorpsycho bounces back and shows yet again that the band is bigger than the individual players and that it intends to survive whatever challenges fate throws at it. The Tower, then, is a statement of intent from a band that is very much alive and kicking: this is the start of a new era in the Psychoverse, and the album stands as proof that there’s bite in the old dog yet! (Motorpsycho)


September 2017, Best Metal Album of the Month: Raised on Decay by Shrapnel

Shrapnel is a relatively new metal quintet formed in Norwich, England. They are active since 2009 and in 2014 published the first LP, The Virus Conspires. After a few years of refining and improving their musical style, these guys released on late September their second album, named Raised on Decay, which gained immediately a great attention as possibly one of the best thrash releases of the year.

What’s definitely remarkable on this record is the personality and character of these English metallers. Their music, though moving in a musical genre where nowadays almost all the things that could be invented have been already played, manages to appear still cool and intriguing. There is nothing very new in these songs and the influences of the thrash masters permeate many of the songs of the album. Nonetheless, the basic ingredients of the genre have all been perfectly dosed into their recipe, which is then enriched with a good dose of pride and impetuosness.

Musically speaking, we’re in front of a style of metal that is clearly dominated by the powerful and incessant rhythmic sections, on top of which we can enjoy chirurgical guitar riffs and also a number of very good guitar solos. Many songs are characterized by a beautiful alternation of conventional mid-tempo thrashy passages with sections at much higher rhythm, producing a contrast that typically makes the songs brighter and more dynamic and only in some limited cases seems a bit constrained and not totally spontaneous.

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The Englishmen’s gig continues to combine different schools of thrash (Kreator, Testament), but this time around, the heavy/speed metal element (Judas Priest and other outfits come to mind more often than not) has a prominent role, that’s expected to really deliver in live concerts. (Sputnik Music)

 

Shrapnel’s hard-hitting and ferocious effort might have just paid off. An amalgamation of modern and classic sounds makes this album unique. It splits down the middle of thrash, death, and portions of tech-death styles seamlessly thus daring to discover a tone that sounds exhilarating and gives the album character. (Metal Wani)


 

September 2017, Best Electronic Album of the Month: Okovi by Zola Jesus

 

Nika Roza Danilova, better known with her stage name of Zola Jesus, represents one of those artists who, although gifted of a fantastic voice that could have guaranteed her a brilliant career in pop or rock, decided instead to devote herself to the world of experimentation and avant-garde, which is definitely more challenging from an artistic point of view view but at the end of the day gave her a fame which is definitely minor than what she would have achieved – presumably – with mainstream music. The association with the case of Bjork is almost immediate. But if the Icelanding singer has shifted with the years towards an increasingly extreme, conceptual and essentially less immediate style of music, with Zola Jesus – fortunately I would say – we’re apparently going through a different process. Her beautiful latest album, in fact, has the capacity to hit us directly to the heart for passion and immediacy, in a way that’s quite unique in her discography. Experimentation, in this case, really seems devoted for transmitting the profound message that the artist wants to convey, rather than to represent a mere stylistic tool or a way to elevate – artificially – the artistic quality of her offer.

Okovi, which is Zola Jesus’ fifth album, arrives three years after her previous LP and represents the result of an experience of isolation and retreat into her hometown in Wisconsin.

Last year, I moved back to the woods in Wisconsin where I was raised. I built a little house just steps away from where my dilapidated childhood tree fort is slowly recombining into earth.  Okovi was fed by this return to roots and several very personal traumas.

While writing Okovi, I endured people very close to me trying to die, and others trying desperately not to. Meanwhile, I was fighting through a haze so thick I wasn’t sure I’d find my way to the other side. Death, in all of its masks, has been encircling everyone I love, and with it the questions of legacy, worth, and will.

Okovi is a Slavic word for shackles. We’re all shackled to something—to life, to death, to bodies, to minds, to illness, to people, to birthright, to duty. Each of us born with a unique debt, and we have until we die to pay it back.  Without this cost, what gives us the right to live? And moreover, what gives us the right to die? Are we really even free to choose?

This album is a deeply personal snapshot of loss, reconciliation, and a sympathy for the chains that keep us all grounded to the unforgiving laws of nature. To bring it to life, I decided to enlist the help of Alex DeGroot, who has been the only constant in my live band and helped mix the Stridulum EP back in 2010. It will be released on Sacred Bones, the closest group of people I’ll ever have to blood-bound family.

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From a musical point of view, the songs of Okovi are full of spectral and dreamy atmospheres, sometimes supported by articulated beats but in some cases suspended and free to develop without any rhythmic construct. And then there is the voice, beautiful, profound and spanning through an incredible tonal range.

This is a disc which could easily represents a turning point for the American singer. The perfect balance that has been found between experimentation and accessibility resulted in one of the best things we’ve heard this year in electronic music.

It’s a release that might disengage fans of her more sub-rosa earlier material of yore, Zola Jesus has evolved into an artist where pop – born from a need to mend from trauma or otherwise – is no longer a recurrent secondary descriptor, but a primary one. Danilova has loosened the shackles that have made this remarkable metamorphosis possible. (The Quietus)


 

June 2017, Best Metal Album of the Month: Tarot by Æther Realm

Tarot, by U.S. metal band Æther Realm, is one of the most recent surprises in metal. The band, which plays an interesting fusion of melodic death metal, folk and heavy metal,  with the second release eventually managed to define an own and unique style, something that’s not easy to achieve in a kind of music that’s so strongly influenced by a few major and relevant groups such as Ensiferum and Wintersun.

What’s really good in this disc is the quality of the guitar riffs. In most of the times the guitars operate in background to support and amplify the melodic soundscapes that are created with keyboards and vocals, but at other times they break the melodiy with furious rhythms and fierce guitar rides.

The album is also characterized by a combination of clean vocals with growls and screams and the balance between these two styles is excellent and gives another positive element to most of the songs.

The distance between Æther Realm’s two full-length releases may have been a time-consuming trip, but it is time that the group have clearly taken advantage of, forging and smithing each of Tarot’s songs into battle-worthy weapons. The band have leaped past the initial fascination of a group out of North Carolina being able to create so well a sound that we usually associate with Scandinavian regions, vaulting into an area where they’ve been able to mature their sound enough that Æther Realm have really now become their own thing. (No Clean Singing)

 

June 2017, Best Rock Album of the Month: Mosaic by 311

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Long time alternative rockers three-eleven came back after three years since their last LP with another excellent release. Their last album, named Mosaic, is the twelfth studio album of their long career and in the few weeks that have now passed from the date of release, it has already received very good reviews from both music critics and fans.

The band has achieved a very good recognition in the alternative rock scene for their smooth but energetic rock anthems, most often featuring very nice and enjoyable influences from reggae and ska. And their last production definitely confirms their unique skill in mastering so many different genres into a captivating and coherent package of songs. Possibly one of the most complete rock albums of the last few months, Mosaic keeps the band’s unique rap/rock/reggae mix alive and at same time introduces a few additional elements in their palette of sounds which make the album somehow new and refreshing.

What puts Mosaic into another realm is the fact that 311 have not only made a really strong album, but they progressed. They forged new territory. By introducing some outside songwriters to the fold, a different style of production and taking some really big chances, 311 have shown their unwillingness to remain stagnant. Not many bands are still growing twelve albums into their career. But most bands aren’t 311. (311.com)

June 2017, Best Jazz Album of the Month: Titok by Ferenc Snétberger

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Readers of this blog should have noticed that in the last few weeks I’m talking often about this artist and his last fantastic record. As a matter of fact, from the first moments I came across with Titok, the recent album that the Hungarian artist Ferenc Snétberger has released for ECM, I became a fervent sponsor of this LP and practically I mention it in any article about jazz I write for the blog. And I will continue to do so, also because I’m about to publish the list of the top ten Jazz albums of the first half of 2017, and I can anticipate that this work has quickly won a position in this ranking. As a side note: the album has been officially released at the end of April, but I managed to get a copy only a few weeks ago and I couldn’t miss the chance to give it the reward it deserved.

Titok is an ode to guitar. Snétberger is playing this instrument since almost 50 years (his biography states that he had classical guitar lessons from 1970) and throughout his career he has been exploring many different styles and influences (from the ‘hot‘ jazz guitar of “Django” Reinhardt to Latin American musics, passing through US jazz and European classical traditions). Well, what we hear in this record seems to be a point of arrival for all these different experiences he had so far and the album certainly represents an important chapter in the artist’s career.

“Alom” on the present disc is an adaptation of an old theme referencing Roma music, while “Orange Tango” and “Renaissance” acknowledge their inspirational sources in their titles. Yet none of these pieces sounds “eclectic”, the diverse sources are integrated organically inside Snétberger’s music, and accessed readily through the guitar. (snetberger.com)

In order to record this album, Ferenc Snétberger joined with Swedish bassist Anders Jormin and US drummer Joey Baron. Titok marks the first time they have played together on an album, but it is evident that a special chemistry was generated among these musicians. Snétberger and Jormin, in particular, often find themselves exploring the most hidden facets of the main melodies, and it seems like they really played together since a long time from the way the two complement each other without any hesitation.

From a musical point of view the songs of Titok belong to two main categories: there are same old Snétberger’s tunes that are reinterpreted (magistrally) by the trio, along with new compositions where the three musicians are more oriented towards improvisation. There is, however, a consistency of style that makes it an absolutely homogeneous record and in its essence the album can also be seen as a single continuous music stream. The atmospheres created by the guitarist and his comrades are typically warm and gentle, and everything seems made with the precise will to enhance the poetic sound of the guitar and the beautiful melodic lines of which the disc is full. That’s a very good release, for both lovers of jazz guitar and also those causal listeners who simply want to approach a beautiful musical experience.

The title-track song of the album was featured as the opening track of my recent mixtape dedicated to Jazz guitar, you may enjoy it from the widget below.

June 2017, Best Electronic Album of the Month: Savage Sinusoid by IGORRR

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I was expecting this album for ages, actually since I was literally shocked with their incredible 2012’s Hallelujah. And when it arrived, it delivered.

Igorrr is a unique project, led by one of those musical innovators who appear once every generation. And the last album produced by Gautier Serre and his supporting musicians, Savage Sinusoid, is simply a masterpiece of experimentation and electronic madness and there are absolutely no words to describe how much I love this record.

As a matter of fact, there is no way to properly capture Igorrr’s sound and style by just words, there is literally no way to categorize it and even the association with the Electronic music category may be questioned by someone. The best you can do if you’re not familiar with the production from Gautier Serre and his crazy bandmates is to visit their bandcamp page and start exploring their rich discography.

If this is not your first encounter with the band you already know what to expect with Savage Sinusoid.

On this record, electronic manipulations, accordion, saxophone, sitar, harpsichord, mandolin and strings sit comfortably alongside ruthless blastbeats, chunky riffs, death grunts and soaring operatic vocals – and as chaotic as this might sometimes seem, there is no lack of heart behind everything thundering from the speakers. (Igorrr.com)

There is however some evolution with the previous works, in particular for what concern the level of experimentation they do with the basic elements of the songs. In the early works of their discography you could see that the starting point of the song (whether it was an harpsichord sonata by Scarlatti or a popular Balkan dance) was just the beginning of an exploratory journey that could eventually lead to something really different. In their last album, the amount of experimentation seems a little bit reduced and the original baselines are more present throughout each of the songs, giving even more diversity to the different tracks of the album.

From a technical point of view, the album is “sample free“, meaning that everything you listen in the album has been played or generated for the purpose of the disc. You really need to see the “making of” videos on YouTube to understand how Igorrr play and record their songs. Here it is one of these videos, look at how skilled are all the musicians involved.

Alternatively, the official video for the song Cheval gives an hint on their unique style.

 

In summary… this is not music for everyone: it requires mental opening, curiosity and sense of wonder to go beyond the chaos. I like it a lot, I’m listening to this album almost uninterruptedly since the first day I got it.

May 2017, Best Indie Pop Album of the Month: Goths by The Mountain Goats

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Every time I have to face a long journey with the car there are two discs that can not be missed in the collection of mp3 that I bring with me for the travel. These are All Eternals Deck and Transcendental Youth, two LPs in the long discography of The Mountain Goats which have been published, respectively, in 2011 and 2012. I think I have heard these works hundreds and hundreds of times, never losing the pleasure for their songs.

As a passionate fan of the American band I was quite puzzled (and a bit disappointed) when a couple of years ago they released the album Beat the Champ, their concept album on professional wrestling (!), and I was definitely curious about their latest publication, Goths, which has been released on May 2017. The discs by The Mountain Goats may be fully appreciated only after a while: you typically require subsequent listening to familiarize with the songs and fully enjoy both the musical dynamics and the stories told in their songs. After the first few times that the disc played in my music reader, however, I can already say that (fortunately) they’ve come back to a more enjoyable and interesting musical style with respect to the controversial 2015 album, although we are still far from the peaks that the band reached in the early years of 2010 with the two albums I mentioned at the beginning of my review.

The Mountain Goats are one of the most prolific bands of the American indie scene. Their leader, the singer-songwriter John Darnielle, has written more than 600 songs now, and the band, with their latest album Goths, has reached the sixteenth studio LP of their career in 23 years since their formation.

The first thing that you notice in their last work is the absence of any guitar. The group is famous for applying a precise stylistic choice to each of the disks they publishe, it may address the music or the themes. In this case it was the turn of the instrumentation. The songs develop around bass lines, vocals and horns. The result is definitely interesting, although we miss somewhere the acoustic and low-profile sound we appreciated in their earlier works. Beyond the instrumental aspect, the songs of the album are absolutely emotional and profound, with a couple of songs that stand out for their beauty (Rain in Soho is one of them). Personally I still prefer the more immediate and “indie” guitar-solo approach tthat he band embraced in the past, but if the results are like those of this album, I’m keen and ready to enjoy this diversion.

The results of all this ambition are decidedly mixed. It’s admirable to see a group of musicians who’ve been working together for so long and who continue to keep up a steady pace of releases put out a record this adventurous. But many of their musical experiments — from smooth jazz interludes to messy, horn-heavy outros — fall flat. (Consequence of Sound)

Goths sounds nothing like goth rock, but maybe, Darnielle seems to suggest, every goth rocker is destined to write their own bookish, soft-rock opus about nights doing cocaine while listening to Bauhaus. (Pitchfork)

May 2017, Best Progressive Rock Album of the Month: In Spades by The Afghan Whigs

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I was just a teenager when I heard for the first time a few songs from the american alternative rockers The Afghan Whigs. At that time, however, I was too much involved into the fantastic metal scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s to give enough attention to the elegant and complex architectures from these skilled and talented musicians.

Eventually they broke up in 2001, just when I was starting to really discover and apprecieate their music. After almost ten years, the guys from Cincinnati started composing and recording new material together. But if the first album of the reunited band received mixed reviews from both critics and fans (I also wasn’t too much excited from their 2014’s Do The Beast), with their new release, In Spades, they have managed to match the beauty and the quality of their first releases.

In Spades is the eight album in The Afghan Whig‘s discography. Musically speaking the album is full of progressive rock references, with passionate and engaging motifs, and the disc stands out effectively as one of the finest works from the band, even considering their entire production since 1986. There are a few noir anthems in the album wich definitely candidate to be among the best rock songs of the year, and the record has all the cards in place to win both the old fans and to capture the attention of the new generations.

In Spades is as quintessentially Afghan Whigs as anything the group has ever done – fulfilling its original mandate to explore the missing link between howling Midwestern punk like Die Kreuzen and Hüsker Dü, The Temptations’ psychedelic soul symphonies, and the expansive hard-rock tapestries of Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. At the same time, this new record continues to push beyond anything in the Whigs’ previous repertoire – another trademark, along with the explosive group dynamic captured on the recording. (Bandcamp)

May 2017, Best Alternative Metal Album of the Month: Poison the Parish by Seether

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Alternative Metal is a genre that here in this blog we have little overlooked, despite in 2017 there have been already some interesting releases. After listening to the last album by Seether, the post-grunge metal band from South Africa, we could no longer ignore the genre and so we’re now dedicating a special entry for a beautiful alternative metal album.

Poison the Parish, the seventh full-lenght work by Seether, arrives on the shelves three years after their previous release and it signs a new heavier direction for the band, which started initially as a post-grunge rock outfit and that now can be considered in all respects as a metal group. The change is also reflected by the new logo that the four guys from Pretoria choosed for the new album, a logo which is now characterized by a definitely metallic font and style.

Based on what we can hear in the album, however, the change is for the better. Their older mainstream rock motifs left the way to a clear american-inspired alternative metal approach, which gave the songs a greater depth and power. Somewhere there are a few clear references to the masters of alternative metal (Tool and Alice in Chains to mention the most evident sourcse of inspiration), but the album never trascends into a mere imitation of a model and it generally maintains a specific style and musical autonomy. Darkest and sinister sounds, moreover, get along better with the heavy themes that the band addresses in most of the songs.

If the last couple of works by Seether left us a bit disappointed. with Poison the Parish the band made a very strong and energic comeback. At this point, it remains to see if such a change of musical direction is just a temporary step in their career or wheter it marks a definitive transformation of their sound and overall approach to music.

 

May 2017, Best Metal Album of the Month: The World Ablaze by God Dethroned

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In the last issue of our Top 20 Music Chart, which collects the best albums across all genres, the new album by Dutch veteran metallers God Dethroned entered straight and directly at the third place. And this happend 5 months since the beginning of the year, meaning that the chart is really packed with solid and important albums. The reason for that is simple: we’re in front of a great work. The World Ablaze is a magnificient album and one of the best metal releases you will hear in 2017.

God Dethroned are a Death Metal band from Netherlands with a long-term career which started as back as 1991. In such a long time span the group went through a number of changes in the line-up and also some periods of silence. The World Ablaze arrives in fact seven years after their previous release, but from what we hear we may imagine the dutch metallers spending this time refining and improving their signature Blackened Death Metal style. Death Metal is not an easy kind of music to hear, and unfortunately this sub-genre is today inflated by an excessive number of low-level bands that simply find themselves pushing the sounds to the extremes, without particular skills or any research for something different to say. Nothing we just wrote applies to The World Ablaze.

The quality of the album is impressive, there is a fantastic balance between energy and melancholy, the two main and recurring themes of their recent production. God Dethroned have an undeniable capability to forge impressive and engaging guitar riffs which result enough catchy and “groovy” to make the songs enjoyable to hear but keeping some of the brutality of standard Death Metal.

Speaking of the music, the band are on top form here, still straddling the nebulous border between the more “extreme” end of Melodic Death Metal, and the more song-based side of “true” Death Metal, but with a renewed focus and confidence – the hooks are still sharp and spiteful, the riffs are still intense and electrifying, while the drums, although still supremely ferocious when they need to be (which is often) aren’t quite as frantic as they were on their previous album, Under the Sign of the Iron Cross, with the band taking a more measured and dynamic approach to their writing this time around. (No Clean Singing)

Whether you are already a battle-hardened God Dethroned fan or someone new to death metal, ‘The World Ablaze’ will almost certainly be a hit. How could it not be though? This is God Dethroned at their savage, brutal and beautiful best. (The Blog of Much Metal)

 

April 2017, Best Jazz Album: An Ancient Observer by Tigran Hamasyan

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We spoke about the wonderful release by Tigran Hamasyan in a recent post of this blog. From the first opportunites we had to listen to the music of Tigran’s new album An Ancient Observer, in fact, we immediately appreciated the quality of the songs collected in this record, which is definitely a candidate to become one of the best jazz releases of the year.

Differently from Tigran’s most recent productions, An Ancient Observer sees the young Armenian composer focusing primarily on the piano. The simplicity of the arrangements in this case is in favour of Tigran’s music, since we can fully appreciate the beautiful balance that he managed to achieve between Armenian folk music (which is based on a different tonal system with respect to the European one) and more conventional – and for us familiar – musical structures. The melodies in Tigran’s songs are always suspended on this unstable equilibrium between two worlds and two cultures, and this dynamic contrast creates a fascinating and magical atmosphere. From listening to the album, however, it is evident how this is the result of years of work and refinement rather than just a circumscribed musical experiment. As a matter of fact, we’re speaking of a musician that is incorporating local folk melodies into jazz-form improvisations since his teens.

Sometimes, even if quite rarely, there are songs that can hit you deep in your emotions. Songs where the beauty of the melodies is combined with a great expressiveness of the interpretation. An Ancient Observer is full of these kind of songs. This is with no doubts a musical work that will leave a mark for a long time. Not to be missed, absolutely.

 

 

 

 

April 2017, Best Progressive Rock Album: Detachment by Barock Project

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Barock Project are a talented rock band from Modena, in Italy, which has the declared objective to mix together ’70s progressive-rock with classical music. In their musical career, which is now over 10 years long, these musicians have already released a number of studio albums and one live disc before the beautiful Detachment, the disc that was published on late March and which is the fifth studio LP of their discography.

The album is clearly reminiscent of the standard tradition of Prog Rock, both in terms of the overall sound which the band managed to craft in the year that they spent in the studio for the recording and also for the classical “suite-structure” of most of the songs. But such a glance to the past is limited to the form of the music they play, because beyond the external cortex there are beautiful and very interesting songs which show an undeniable creative vein and also a remarkable unique ability in the combination of elements coming from different musical experiences.

I started so many years ago writing music to feel good, I think this is the main reason why I do it. And at times you realize that you can do very well without writing long and complex suites, basically forced by the fact that this music labeled “Prog” must necessarily have all these features to be it. But I think that this, too, can be considered kind of a Detachment … and so I felt free to write more easily. I always thought that if the music I write comes from within then it is honest. And if I’m honest with myself, I’m happy. (Luca Zabbini, project founder, pianist vocalist of the band, from House of Prog)

A few songs from Detachment may be accessed through the album’s Bandcamp page, we have here selected some of our favorite tracks.

April 2017, Best Electronic Album: The Assassination Of Julius Caesar by Ulver

As we said in a previous post, it’s not easy to categorize the music from Ulver, the Norwegian experimental musical collective founded that is now approaching 25 years of actrivity. If their early works explored the realms of black and folk metal, with the passing of time they started an incredible and ambitious exploration of other genres, including ambient, electronica, and neoclassical. This year, with their last work named The Assassination of Julius Caesar, the band is playing with a blend of futuristic electro-pop and experimental music. The result, as usual, is brilliant.

Never afraid of challenging or redefining current musical conventions, Ulver has now enacted what they are calling “their pop album”. You don’t have to worry about vexing radio humdrum or pastel ear candy though – Talk Talk and Music Machine are pop music as good as any in the universe of Ulver. A universe where “pop” is more a mark of distinction, denoting immediacy and possible body movement. The Assassination of Julius Caesar is an album the band has been longing to do for many years, to delve into the music of their childhood, along with the now fading memories and drifting clouds of romance. (Bandcamp)

The magic in the music of Ulver is that regardless of the specific genre they are playing with, they always manage to make you feel a deep and immersive musical experience. And the fact that the album is their most accessible to date means that today an higher number of listeners may venture into Ulver’s music and enjoy the elegance of their production.

It is not easy to find an album which manages so well to combine enjoyability of listening with a sensation of latent discomfort. A perfect example of the contrasting emotions that are provoked by Ulver music is given by the second track of the album, the beautiful Rolling Stone, which features an apparently simple musical structure with a slow but incessant battery, layers of synths and double voices, and a few free-jazz saxophone inserts. The overall experience is obscure and dramatic like the disturbing story which is sung over the music, which is accompanied by a musical crescendo transmitting a sense of anxiety and danger.

I have seen the world you believe in
Black ships with rats dead Caesars and sons
Hear the children sing they cry murder
What is done is done and there is more to come
Poor little sister I hope you understand
The babe in the woods will be taken by a wolf
The second coming means nothing to me
I have tasted death every body and thing
I long for my own for the curtain to fall
To wipe the blood off the face of the Earth

(ROLLING STONE, by Ulver)

We must be only grateful to Uvler if they keep this endless experimentation and exploration of the musical realms if at the end they manage to convey this kind of emotions. The beautiful dark-pop songs of their last album are now constantly rotating in our musical playlists, and the appreciation we have for this little masterpiece is still growing.

April 2017, Best Rock Album: In The End by Nothington

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In the End is the new studio release by San Francisco alternative-punk rockers Nothington. The album interrupts a period of silence of almost five years since their last studio release and it arrives when the band is celebrating ten years of activity. Born on the ashes of their former band Tsunami Bomb, Nothington’s founders Gabe Lindeman and  Jay Northington have developed through the years a special and successful mix of catchy end energetic punk rock, which allowed them to gain a relatively high commercial success and made them as one of the most important rock groups from the Bay Area.

In their last work, the guys from Californian repeat their successful musical recipe without any particolar innovation: radio-friendly catchy rock and melodic punk-rock anthems. There are a few moments where the tones are a bit more thoughful and introspective, but the essence of the album is definitely on the energy side. Sometimes we don’t need at any cost musical innovations or masterpieces, but just nice and good rock songs to put in our musical playlists.