END OF THE YEAR LISTS: BEST INDIE POP OF 2018 (CHART + PLAYLIST)

While I was assembling this list with the best indie pop albums of 2018 I could realize that this year has been characterized by an impressive number of young and emerging artists. While this is certainly a good sign for the future of the genre, on the other side it shows how it is relatively common and physiological, apart from some rare exceptions, that the most successful bands slowly and progressively lose that spark of innovation and creativity that we find burning and alive in the youngest formations.

In general terms, however, this was certainly an interesting year for indie pop music and together with some confirmations (Metric, Calexico
Anna von Hausswolff and Soap&Skin) we also had a few intriguing surprises (Postcards from Lebanon, Say Sue Me from South Korea).

Before proceeding with the chart, I’m pleased to inform that there is a special playlist on Spotify which collects the most beautiful songs taken from the albums that are featured in this article. Good reading and good listening!



#10) Metric, “Art of Doubt”

Indie Pop / Synth Pop
Metric is a Canadian rock band founded in 1998 in Toronto, Ontario. Their discography features seven full-lenght studio records.

Over the past fifteen years the sound of Metric has traveled several times, and in both directions, along the path which runs between synthpop and indie rock. And the new album by the Canadian band, Art of Doubt, seems to be conceived in order to summarize, in one single episode, all the main stages of this travel. In certain songs we have a clear “rock and roll” feeling with guitars, bass and drums in the foreground, but there are many other parts of the album where atmospheres and sounds are definitely “pop”, with triumphs of synthetizers and also many hints to those downtempo and basic melodies which characterized the early works of the band.

As usual, the burden of keeping everything consistent is mostly in the hands of Emily Haines and James Shaw, who’ve been since the beginning the driving forces of the band. Haines, in particular, delivers in the new LP one of her best vocal performances so far, whilst Shaw’s guitar, glossy and sticky, always manages to offer something interesting and catchy to hear.

Art of Doubt won’t be the absolute masterpiece in Metric’s career, but it’s still an absolutely valid and interesting record, with a few songs that that remain deeply impressed in our memory and that populated many of the playlists which circulated this year.



#9) Calexico, “The Thread That Keeps Us”

Indie Pop / Desert Noir / Americana
Joey Burns and John Convertino are the two main members of Calexico, a Tucson, Arizona-based Americana, Tex-Mex, indie rock band. The band has relesed ten LPs since its formation in 1996.

It’s always a special moment when a band reaches the milestone of the tenth album of their discography and Calexico, the “desert noir” group founded more than twenty years ago by Joey Burns and John Convertino, has achieved this result in 2018 with their new album The Thread That Keeps Us.

The name of the group is that of the city of Calexico, located on the border between the United States and Mexico, and this choice has always reminded of the particular approach that Burns and Convertino have followed in their career by mixing together different genres and influences. Their latest album is no exception, and we can in fact appreciate an enjoyable mix of Americana, folk and the usual references to the Latin musical tradition.

The songs of The Thread That Keeps Us are generally interesting and intriguing, although the duration of the album (fifteen tracks plus seven bonuses) has somewhat diluted its overall intensity. As always, however, we can appreciate in Calexico’s music an elegance and also a desire to experiment that are quite unique in today’s panorama, and for this reason we can certainly tolerate some small drop in intensity and enjoy, on the other side, some of the most fascinating songs among those we could enjoy this year.



#8) Roosevelt, “Young Romance”

Synth Pop / Indie Electronic
Roosevelt (born Marius Lauber in September 1990) is a German singer, songwriter and producer from Viersen. He has released his first self-titled LP in 2016, and he published in 2018 his second record, named “Young Romance”.

There are albums that seem to be made for being played in the background, bringing good feelings and a boost in positivity. Young Romance, the new album from German singer, DJ and producer Marius Lauber (who plays under the moniker of Roosevelt) is definitely one of these records. The music he wrote for his new album is in fact a clean and polished version of synth-pop which takes deep inspiration from the sounds of the 80s, rich of sweet notes and pleasant atmospheres.

Young Romance features a nice collection singable and easy-listening vintage pop songs that manage to maintain a good level of originality and interest. There is in particular a streak of very good songs placed right in the middle of the disk which stand out for the enjoyability and the catchyness of the choruses, something that should guarantee high rotations in many music playlists (including mine).

With his second solo work, Marius Lauber continues his process of progressive departure from the world of indie electronic towards the wider shores of pop music. In doing this transformation he’s increasing the recourse to vintage sounds from the golden age of synth-pop, trying to make his music more fascinating and, in some way, characteristic. In many tracks of the new album this operation was certainly successful, even if there is an tangible gap between the best songs of Young Romance and the remaining ones, and this is perhaps the weakest aspect of Roosevelt’s new work.



#7) The Wombats, “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life”

Indie Pop / Indie Rock / Punk Revival
The Wombats are an English pop/rock band formed in Liverpool in 2003, Their debut studio album was released in 2017 and the band has published to date four LPs.

The Wombats, from Liverpool, have published this year the fourth album of their career, named Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Since their initial formation in 2003, the band has experienced many changes in their style: from electronic/psychedelic music to post-punk revival, arriving the current sound which blends pop-oriented melodies with elements from indie rock and alternative dance. In short, a mixture of influences and inspirations that has always guaranteed freshness and innovation to their albums, something which is somehow confirmed in their last record.

Despite some gap between the best and weakest parts, the album offers a fine collection of songs that moves with ease between pop and rock, with a few tracks that emerge from the others for their catchy choruses and some particularly intriguing melody.

The style of the band has always tried to find a difficult balance between a “mainstream” sound made for gaining the attention of the  general public, and  an “indie” approach aimed at keeping their music intriguing and somehow particular. After more of ten years of experience in the studio and on the stages, this challenging goal has been mostly achieved.



#6) David Duchovny, “Every Third Thought”

Indie Pop / Folk / Pop Rock
David William Duchovny is an American actor, writer, producer, director, novelist, and singer-songwriter. As a musicians, he has released to date two LPs.

David Duchovny is one of those artists who likes to challenge himself with different forms of expression and in fact, in addition to looking for aliens and other mysteries, the famous American actor has distinguished himself as a novelist, producer, and also musician. As far as his music career is concerned, it should be said that Duchovny writes and arranges all of his songs, thus showing qualities that go well beyond a nice presence on the stage and an interesting voice.

Although I had initially some skepticism about his music, I had to recognize  that Every Third Thought , which is Duchovny’s latest LP, is definitely an interesting and appreciable collection of indie pop songs, and in fact some of them that have been rotating frequently in some of the playlists that I’m curating on Spotify.

Compared with Duchovny’s previous release (2015’s Hell or Highwater) the new album has gained in intensity and also energy: his sound today is definitely more “rock”, and the overall enjoyability of the album has benefited from such evolution. The songs of Every Third Thought won’t be the ones that will revolutionize the indie scene, but Duchovny’s music is definitely extremely nice to listen to, and also much more interesting than what one could expect.



#5) Wild Pink, “Yolk in the Fur”

Indie Pop / Indie Rock
Wild Pink is an American indie rock band from the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City. Their self-titled debut full-length album was released in February 2017. The band’s second and most recent album, “Yolk in the Fur”, was released on July 2018.

Wild Pink, from New York City, is one of those emerging bands which are trying to find their own space in the music scene by cultivating elegance and style rather than using commercial and marketing stratagems to get the attention of fans and medias in general. Wild Pink define themselves as an indie rock band, and their formation is in effect the typical trio with guitar/vocals, bass and drums. The music composed by these guys, however, travels through the softer and quieter regions of the rock universe, on that blurred border that exists between rock and indie pop; this the kind of music which has as major exponents authors such as War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and, to some extent, Death Cab for Cutie (if you consider their early works).

Formed in 2017, Wild Pink have published so far two EPs and two LPs. Their last full-lenght record, Yolk in the Fur, presents a fairly significant evolution of their style compared to their self-titled debut, especially for the adoption of a more classic and conventional structure of the songs. Compared to their first record, the sound of Wild Pink is slowly drifting towards more placid and quiet musical landscapes, rarely perturbed by guitar distortions and dissonances. It’s like being on a beach at the end of the summer: the climate still carries the scent and the lightness of the sunny days that we enjoyed until a few weeks ago, but there are occasionally breezes of cold winds and also black clouds that can obscure the light for a few minutes.

Musically speaking, Yolk in the Fur is characterized by placid rhythms and simple but intriguing melodies. Most of the songs are built on top of clean guitars, warm lines of bass and delicate layers of acoustic synthetizers. And there is of course the charming voice of John Ross, the leader and songwriter of the band, a singer who never needs to scream to tell his stories, like an old friend who sits beside you and calmly talks about the things he has observed during his absence.



#4) Say Sue Me, “Where We Were Together”

Indie Pop / Surf Rock / Pop Rock
Say Sue Me define themselves as an indie rock band from Busan, South Korea. They have released to date a number of EPs and two full-lenght albums.

It was pretty surprising for me to find out that Say Sue Me is a band coming from South Korea. When I first listened to their songs, they appeared to me as one of the many North American or European bands who try to find their way into the music scene. I must admit that the particular origin of the band stimulated me to listen with more attention to their LP, Where We Were Together, which is the second disc of their discography (I missed their debut, my apologies). After listening to the whole record for a handful of times I started to get more attracted to their music and, in the end, I’m really happy that I gave them a second chance after my first (inattentive) try.

Where We Were Together features an ejoyable collection of small and luminous musical sketches, all of them cheerful and nice to hear. One of the strongest elements of their song is surely the delicate and angelic voice of the singer, who gives grace and atmosphere to all the record.

Where We Were Together seems to me the perfect music to be heard on my return home on Friday afternoons, when the tension of a week of meetings and commitments slowly dissolves into the promise of a weekend of serenity.



#3) Anna von Hausswolff, “Dead Magic”

Art Pop / Dark Ambient
Anna Michaela Ebba Electra von Hausswolff is a Swedish singer, pianist, organist and songwriter. She has released to date four LPs and three EPs.

Anna von Hausswolff, from Sweden, represents one of those cases in which the talent transcends the artist’s age and experience. In 2010, at the age of 24, the eclectic singer and organist released her first album, Singing From the Grave, which already highlighted the first fragments of her genius. In 2018, eight years after her debut, she fully confirms with the new album Dead Magic all the good things that were said about her impressive debut and also the following two records that she published, respectively, in 2012 and 2015.

The style of Anna von Hausswolff is something difficult to explain with just words: it is a sort of mix of dark ambient, avant-garde and art pop. Beyond the tags and attributes, however, the important thing to say is that the five songs of Dead Magic manage to transmit strong and contrasting emotions like peace and anxiety, joy and agitation, trust and loss. The pieces of the album live in an unstable balance between positive and negative elements, with layers of sounds that alternate one after the other following the slow and pulsating rhythm of the music. The artist’s voice, scarcely spread across the LP, makes the tracks even more fascinating and sometimes haunting.

Surely this is not an album made for relax or entertainment, but all those listeners who are ready to venture into the shifting and challenging worlds created by the artist will be rewared with one of the most exciting collections of music that have been published in recent times.



#2) Soap&Skin, “From Gas to Solid / you are my friend”

Art Pop
Soap&Skin is the experimental musical project of Austrian artist Anja Plaschg. She has released to date three LPs.

I remember very well my first musical encounter with Soap&Skin because her debut album, 2009’s Lovetune for Vacuum, coincided with my first purchase on iTunes. At that time I was excited by how it was becoming easy and immediate to discover and acquire music from virtually unknown artist and that excitment, to some extent, had led me to feel a sort of special connection with the album of the Austrian artist. After a short while, however, I realized that despite the LP was for sure a promising debut from a young musician, in the end it resulted less longeve and amazing than what I had felt after the first few listens. The kind of experimental music played by Anja Plaschg was absolutely evocative and also quite original. What didn’t convince me, however, was that alongside some very good songs, objectively emotional and exciting to hear, there were many other tracks that resulted extremely intimate and overly personal: fragments of experiences that for sure represented something very important in the life of the artist but which, once translated into music, resulted not really communicative and poor of emotions for the external listener.

In the recent years I lost sight of this artist and therefore I was a little surprised, and curious, when I received the news of her new album, called From Gas to Solid / you are my friend. But more than the news by itself, I was particularly impressed to discover how Anja Plaschg gained in confidence and maturity in years that have passed since her first two records.

Soap&Skin’s new LP is characterized many positive features. The style is still experimental and also permeated by a general atmosphere of darkness and anxiety. The palette of sounds, however, is much more varied and alongside the usual fragments of piano and other classical instruments we have today chamber choruses, lots of different percussion instruments, ambient noises and delicate layers of synths. Flashes of light come from time to time to illuminate the darkness, and this makes the LP definitely more dynamic and enjoyable to hear. It’s as if a vein of positivity has been grafted into the music of the Austrian artist, and the resulting contrast between light and shadows makes the overall picture much more compelling.

From Gas to Solid / you are my friend is the album that in my opinion marks the maturity of Soap&Skin. Some songs continue to be a bit too cryptic for the casual listener, but for all those who like neoclassical moods and are also ready to embrace dark ambient atmospheres, this album will offer intense emotions and a rewarding musical experience.




#1) Postcards, “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”

Dreamy Pop / Indie Rock
Postcards is a Lebanese dream pop/indie rock band formed in early 2013. They have released three EPs and their first full-length record, “I’ll be here in the morning”, was released on January 2018.

This LP was one of the first indie pop records that were reviewed this year in this blog and therefore is surprising enough to find it firmly on top of the chart now that we have eventually arrived to the final selection for 2018, in particular if we consider that it’s a debut work. 

I’ll be here in the morning is the first album released by Postcards, a dreamy-pop & indie rock band formed in Beirut, Lebanon, on late 2012. Postcards describe their music as “hushed, introspective vocals floating over expansive sonic spaces that shift between harsh noise and dreamy soundscapes”. Such definition may be a little too complex and sophisticated, but there is no doubt that the music offered in this debut LP is of absolute value and it contains many elements of innovation, in particular when taking into account the current status of the indie pop scene.

One of the most exciting aspects of I’ll be here in the morning is that the songs seem as they are not completely defined: they move between areas of lightness and tranquillity and other sections which are definitely more dark,meditative, with melodies that initially appear serene and peaceful but, during the development of the songs, start to show also ambiguous and subtly disturbing elements. The album is also characterized by a nice alternation of intimate songs and more angry and polemical moments. In short, it’s a concentration of extremely different moments which are however interconnected by a style of music that remains coherent and effective across the nine tracks of the record.

Finally, it’s worth to say that despite we are evidently looking at the first steps of a promising career, these four musicians from Beirut already show ecellent songwriting skills, togethr with an impressive musical sensibility. If Poscards will confirm these qualities in their future works, they are destined to do great things in music. And I will be there to remind you that I was one of those few who discovered their value since their debut record.



As anticipated at the beginning of the article, you may enjoy the best songs from these albums in a special Playlist that I’ve just created on Spotify! Listen to it and spread the word!



THE THRASH CHANNEL

Despite being a genre of music that developed almost forty years ago and which had its creative peak and major success at the turn of the late 80s and early 90s, Thrash Metal remains today a genre of music that’s still appreciated by many fans of heavy metal.

As a matter of fact, there are hundreds if not thousands of new releases of Thrash Metal every year and following all the latests songs is something really complicated. This is the reason why I created a new channel on Youtube that’s fully dedicated to propose the new videos and the new songs that are shared by thrash metal formations.

You’ll find in the THRASH CHANNEL both minor / independentent bands and major formations. The playlist is updated periodically so you should follow it and visit from time to time. Don’t miss the chance to listen to all the newest releases! Enjoy, and spread the word.

 


 

Another way you have to stay updated with the new thrash releases is to follow my Spotify’s playlist THRAS METAL FEAST. Continuously uppdated with the best and latest thrash metals songs.

 


 

GYPSY JAZZ, The Playlist

There are some types of music that create a deep connection with your spirit and you recognize them because when you hear a song, you would like to stop everything you are doing in that moment and start dancing or singing. For me, one of these types of music  is that particular style of jazz called usually Gypsy Jazz or Gypsy Swing, and many times I force my whole family to listen to these songs, that I find absolutely exciting and alive.

I’m presenting to you today a playlist that I’ve started building since a long time ago, and which is composed by the best Gypsy Jazz songs that I discovered during my endless researches on Spotify. All tracks have been picked up one by one, and I feel that the result is now very close to what I had in mind since the beginning: a breathtaking sequence of songs without a single break or drop in the rhythm.

So, let’s launch the playlist and then you can go below the widget and read something about this incredible and joyous style of music.

Gypsy Jazz (also known as Gypsy Swing or Hot Club Jazz) is a style of jazz generally accepted to have been started by the Romani guitarist Jean “Django” Reinhardt in Paris during the 1930s. Because its origins are in France, and Reinhardt was from the Manouche Roma clan, gypsy jazz is often called by the French name “Jazz Manouche” (Wikipedia)

Gypsy Swing evolved in 1930s as a blend of French Sinti culture and Afro-American hot jazz, and it also has some of its roots in other popular musics of the era. Today we can see, how new influences have sneaked in during the years to keep the style fresh. Here you have a few articles to obtain a little broader view on Jazz Partout’s music style. (Jazzpartout)

Most classic jazz manouche groups consist of a lead guitar, violin, two rhythm guitars and bass. The rhythm guitar supplies a distinct percussive rhythm called la pompe, which, in conjunction with strongly syncopated bass lines, makes a percussion section or trap set redundant. Extended improvised solos are generally performed on guitar and/or violin but clarinet and accordion are also gaining adherents. (National Geographic)


AMERICAN PRIMITIVE GUITAR, the definitive collection

American Primitive Guitar is a fingerstyle guitar musical style originated in the United States in the late 1950s when John Fahey started to compose and record his famous and beautiful avant-garde and neo-classical compositions. Before John Fahey, country fingerpicking techniques were used primarily to accompany vocals, but from that moment on such musical technique began to acquire its own validity also in the context of purely instrumental compositions. Since then many other artists have contributed to the success of this fascinating music style, mixing together elements of country, folk and blues.

 

FAHEY 1300.jpg
John Fahey (1939 – 2001) was an American fingerstyle guitarist and composer who played the steel-string acoustic guitar as a solo instrument. His style has been greatly influential and has been described as the foundation of American Primitive Guitar.

 

Inspired by a number of great works that I had the pleasure to listen in the recent times (including the beautiful new LP by Gwenifer Raymond which I reviewed a few weeks ago) I decided to create and start curating a new playlist on Spotify, fully dedicated to this unique and beautiful style of music. At the moment of its launch, the playlist already presents more than 3 hours of the best of American Primitive Guitar, including artists of the caliber of Jack Rose, Daniel Bachman, Mark Fosson, Glenn Jones, Leo Kottke and Michael Gulezian. All tracks have been carefully selected and arranged so that the playlist can be enjoyed both in sequential order and using the shuffle.

Listen to it and follow the playlist because new tracks are expected to be included, both from new artists and the historical masters of the genre.

Enjoy, and spread the word!

 


 

BEAUTIFUL PIANO

It started as a simple place where to collect nice and delicate pieces for piano, and in a short time it has become one of my favorite playlists for the moments when I need to disconnect from the thousand thoughts on what I have done and what I have to do. That’s the magic of music.

Beatiful Piano is the playlist I manage on Spotify for celebrating the beauty of piano. All the tracks have been “handpicked” one by one over the years, and it’s impressive for me to recognize that today the playlist exceeds four and a half hours in duration. The rule that I gave myself to update Beautiful Piano is simple: no compromises on quality. The playlist features only the best songs, whether these are from new artists or legends of modern classical or electro acoustic music. Compared to many other playlists that are circulating on Spotify there will probably be less frequent updates, but on the other hand I want to provide my listeners with only the best and “forward thinking” piano music.

Enjoy it, follow it, spread the word.

 

 


 

ELECTRO WORLD: THE PULSE OF THE EARTH / The Best of Global Fusion & World Electronic Music

Discover the best entries in ethnic and world-based electronic music with the new playlist I’ve just launched on Spotify: Electro World. You’ll find here the most engaging grooves, afrobeats, indie electonic and global fusion tracks, selected one by one during the last few monts. And this is going to grow with time since new songs will be added periodically.

Follow it, enjoy it, spread the word!

 

Playlist analysis (at the time of launch)

16 tracks, 1 hr 3 min

Top genres: electro swing, uk dub, arab alternative, arab pop, belgian hip hop

Well known artists: Chinese Man, Russkaja, Corine, Baloji, Omar Souleyman

Least known artists: Sidi Wacho, Ackboo, Go Dugong, Abyssinie Club, Nirmaan

Similar artists to explore (not in playlist): Alpha Steppa, Java, L’Entourloop, Mahom, Maryam Saleh, Massilia Sound System, Maÿd Hubb, Mr Zebre, Ondubground, Sporto Kantès


 

BEST THRASH METAL OF 2018 (June 2018): The Top 5 Albums + Spotify Playlist “Thrash Metal Feast”

CHECK OUT THE UPDATED LIST WITH THE BEST THRASH METAL OF 2018! TEN BANDS AND A DEDICATED PLAYLIST!



Everyone feels a special link with a particular genre of music, and despite there are new styles and trends which appear regularly on the scene, there will be always those songs that, although not innovative or revolutionary, still manage to awaken special emotions. In my case, I will be always emotionally connected with thrash metal. Clearly it’s because this kind of music has been the soundtrack of my teenage phase, but there are also the unique rhythms and dynamics, the rebel spirit, the speed, the energy. And everytime I discover that there is a new release for thrash, I found myself waiting for the opportunity to listen to it with particular trepidation.

This year, however, was not particularly happy for thrash metal and in true honesty it wasn’t easy to identify five records to be mentioned as the best of all. Apart from a couple of interesting publications, I feel that the first half of 2018 has been relatively weak. We shall remain optimistic for the continuation of the year… in the meantime let’s see which are the five records that deserved to be part of this prestigious ranking.

At the end of the list you’ll find a widget which provides the access to the Spotify playlist named “Thrash Metal Feast”. This includes the best thrash metal songs of the past 18 months. Follow it because it’s being updated frequently with new songs.

Finally, if you arrived here through a search engine, don’t forget to check the metal section of the blog for other charts and, potentially, even updates of the chart you’re navigating today. Enjoy!


#1) Chain Reaction by Pripjat

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“Pripjat” are named after a ghost town near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Northern Ukraine. The band was formed in Cologne, Germany, back in 2011. They have released two albums: “Sons of Tschernobyl”, the debut LP of 2014, and the new record “Chain Reaction”, relased in 2018.

Pripjat, from Germany, entered the metal scene three years ago with a really interesting debut album, named Sons of Tschernobyl. In 2018 they released a follow-on LP, Chain Reaction, which confirms and improves all the positive elements that we appreciated in their first record. The music played by Pripjat is a kind of thrash which doens’t make any particular effort to differentiate itself from the standard references of the genre, but which is performed with great passion, adrenaline and precision. The album unleashes an incredible charge of energy and adrenaline and the average level of the songs is definitely good, with a few really exciting tracks which make the album to stand out from the rest of the contenders. As anticipated, we observe a positive evolution in the style and quality of their music when compared to the debut record, and as a matter of fact three years of intense touring have helped the band to refine and increase both their songwriting and playing skills. Pripjat is a band to be followed with great attention, we can expect great things from them in the future.

The last album can be streamed from here.


#2) Cabaret De La Guillotine by Angelus Apatrida

Angelus Apatrida 1300
Angelus Apatrida, from Spain, are active since the year 2000 and they have published so far 6 full-lenght albums and a number of other publications such as EPs, split albums and compiliations. “Cabaret de la Guillotine”, their latest release,  arrived three years after their previous LP.

Born at the dawn of the new millennium, Spanish band Angelus Apatrida has progressively evolved its own style from the heavy & power metal of their first works to a kind of metal that’s decidedly more in line with the classic Bay Area thrash, enriched here and there by various and interesting inserts and influences coming from other styles of metal. But whatever the specific genre they played in their albums, Angelus Apatrida have always shown the will celebrate the the masters of the past rather than chasing the different trends of the moment. Their latest album, just to make an example,  is reminiscent in many parts of the early works of Testament, and this is certainly not a bad comparison for a band that today devotes heart and soul to thrash metal. Cabaret de la Guillotine, which is the newest LP released by the band, is definitely one of the best albums they released so far, in particular for the impressive number of tight, furios and enjoyable riffs that are packed in every song. The album doesn’t shine for originality and it’s definitely derivative of many different thinghs we have heard in the last thirty years of metal, but nevertheless it will please many of the lovers of old-school thrash metal.

The new album from Angelus Apatrida is available here for streaming.


#3) All Men Shall Fall by Kill Ritual

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Kill Ritual, from California in the United States of America, have shown since their formation an almost disconcerting regularity in the publication of a new album after about two years from the previous one. “All Men Shall Fall”, released this year, is the fourth of their discography.

In the relatively short timespan since their formation in 2010, Kill Ritual have already published four long-play records, with the last one, All Men Shall Fall, released in March 2018. The band was formed initally by members of Imagika, Dark Angel and Eldritch, but today only ex-Imagika guitarist Steve Rice still remains from the original formation. Kill Ritual have established themselves as a a sort of “revival band” which plays a mix of old-school thrash with major inserts of power and heavy metal. The results are not always exciting and the magic of reviving a musical genre like classical thrash-power is not achieved in all the tracks that are present in the album. There are however some pretty exciting moments in the LP and a couple of songs deserve for sure an higher attention and, as usual, will be included in our metal mixtapes.

All Men Shall Fall is available for streaming here.


#4) Aura Noire (S/T)

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Aura Noir, from Oslo in Norway, are active since 1993. In 25 years of career they have released many albums including 6 full-lenght records. Their last LP, the self-titled “Aura Noir”, interrupts a period of silence of six years since their previous release.

Aura Noir, from Norway, are active since more than two decades and during this timespan they have basically kept playing the same mixture of thrash and black metal with which they moved the first steps into metal. The sound of the band is thus essentially remained unchanged, if only for a natural but limited slowdown of the rhythms and a relatively lower brutality. Their last effort, the self-titled Aura Noire, makes no effort to appear as a “modern” record in order to appeal the young generations of metalheads. Starting from the arrangements – dry and rough – up to the way the songs are structured and performed, everything in the album is substiantally a tribute to the particular genre of metal that the band has developed during the initial stages of their musical journey. In this respect, Aura Noire is certainly a genuine and uncompromising album, the fruit of the passion of three musicians who continue to dedicate themselves to their favorite genre of metal. On the other side, however, it may be perceived in a few sections a note of fatigue, perhaps some form of renovation in their music would not hurt the overall result.

Aura Noir may be streamed from here.


#5) Propaganda by Destractive

Destractive 1300
Destractive, from Helsinki in Finland, are active since 2007 and have published a bunch of demo tapes before their debut LP, the 2018’s album “Propaganda”

Destractive is a quintet of Finnish metallers who started playing and recording their music as back as 10 years ago, but who eventually released their debut full-lenght album only this year. Their first LP, named Propaganda, features a particular version of thrash metal that is characterized by furious and dynamic rhythms that are sometimes extremely close to death metal. As a debut album we can assume that most of the songs in this LP leverage the extensive background and experience they built during the last decade, and in fact – although we don’t find anything incredibly original – the album is enjoyable and quite interesting to hear. The sections of the songs where the thrash elements prevail over the death metal ones are in my opinion the most successful of the album.

The album may be downloaded for free from their bandcamp page.


As promised, this is the Spotify’s playlist Thrash Metal Feast, which features the best and newest tracks of thrash metal. Enjoy and follow it to stay updated with new songs as soon as they’re released.


THE DELICATE SOUND OF THUNDER: The Softer Side of Stoner Music

Stoner music is typically associated with heavily distorted guitars and mighty bass sounds. There are some rare moments, however, in which our favorite artists abandon the heavy and scratchy sounds to give us glimpses of desolate landscapes and delicate moments of poignant poetry.

I’ve collected in a Spotify playlist some of the most contemplative and intimate songs that were produced in recent years by the most famous artists of stoner music. You’ll find here musicians of the caliber of John Garcia, Brant Bjork, Truckfighters, All Them Witches, and many others.

Enjoy this collection of songs and follow the playlist because this is expected to grow with time as soon as new gems are discovered. And don’t forget to recommend new songs if you feel that I missed some major contribution to the playlist. Enjoy!

 


 

 

SOUNDSCAPES, when music designs the sound

 

One of the important things about the synthesizer was that it came without any baggage. A piano comes with a whole history of music…when you play an instrument that does not have any such historical background you are designing sound basically. You’re designing a new instrument. That’s what a synthesizer is essentially. It’s a constantly unfinished instrument. You finish it when you tweak it, and play around with it, and decide how to use it. (Brian Eno)

 


 

There is a special sub-genre of ambient music that is fully focused to the creation of sounds and landscapes, with minimal if no emphasis at all on melody, rhythm and harmony. For those who are new to this style of music, the experience can be alienating and even a bit disturbing. But under the right conditions, and with a bit of preparation, this kind of music can give very strong emotions, such as to take your breath away.

Many artists are nowadays dedicated to ambient music, everyone with his own approach and characteristics. I’m collecting the best pieces that were released in the recent times into a special playlist of mine, named SOUNDSCAPES. As many of the playlist released and managed by this blog, this is a living compilation that will be frequently updated with new tracks.

At the moment of its publication, the playlist features about 2 hours of sonic landscapes from both veterans of ambient music and a few new artists who have recently appeared on the music scene. Enjoy the playlist, follow it, and visit it regularly to check for new songs.

 

 


 

Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting (Brian Eno)

 


 

PIANO JAZZ, when the music flows between black & white keys

 

The piano has been an integral part of the jazz idiom since its inception, in both solo and ensemble settings. Its role is multifaceted due largely to the instrument’s combined melodic and harmonic capabilities. For this reason it is an important tool of jazz musicians and composers for teaching and learning jazz theory and set arrangement, regardless of their main instrument. (cit. Wikipedia)

 


 

When speaking about the history of jazz piano, we should remember that the piano is a unique instrument. It can play melody, harmony and bass, making it capable of functioning as both an accompanying, as well as a lead instrument. Apart from that, it is a magnificent solo instrument. If that’s not enough we can also see that as jazz piano music developed, the rhythm possibilities improved enormously, making this instrument sound like a full orchestra. (cit. Piano Play It, the History of Jazz Piano)

 


 

“Jazz” and “Piano” are always present among the most frequent terms which usually bring new visitors into this blog. This is because of a few appreciated posts that I dedicated in the recent past to this particular sub-genre of music, and also a succesful mixtape that was shared last year with some of the best tracks of 2017.

 

Indeed, the combination of piano and jazz brings with it all the elements of success. When the wide dynamic of timbres given by the piano meets with the class and inspiration of the most talented artists, the result is something that often transcends the boundaries of jazz and becomes an universal testimony of art and beauty.

To celebrate and enjoy the most exciting and brethtaking works for piano I have started to collect in a dedicated compilation all the best songs of the moment. The playlist, which is simply called PIANO JAZZ, will be updated periodically with new tracks, as it already happens for all the playlists that are managed by this blog.


 

At the moment of its publication, the playlist features brand new tracks by Brad Mehldau‘s new LP After Bach, Tigran Hamasyan‘s recent EP For Gyumri, and Rémi Panossian‘s new collection of pieces for piano named DO. Together with these artists, we have other masters of Jazz of the caliber of Omer Klein, Jan Lundgren, Michael Wollny and Cameron Graves.

I’m sure that this playlist will be appreciated by Jazz fans but also by every music lover. As already said, good music has always the capacity to become universal and a gift for every single person who has the capacity to open his soul and free his mind.

 

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American pianist and composer Brad Mehldau released on March 9, 2018 the album After Bach, which comprises the recordings of four preludes and one fugue from J.S. Bach, each followed by an “After Bach” piece written by Mehldau and inspired by the corresponding Bach’s song.

 

 

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Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan released on February 16, 2018 the EP For Gyumri, which is the ideal companion to his beautiful previous LP An Ancient Observer.

 

 

 

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After touring the world with his trio, Frenc jazzist Rémi Panossian decided to reveal himself in a more intimate album of solo piano. The LP, named DO, was released on February 2018.

 


 

BEAUTIFUL PIANO, The Playlist

In my continuous and uninterrupted search for the most evocative and emotional pieces of music, I often find myself writing down in the margin of a notebook the title of a particular piece that has captured my attention more than the others. At night, at home, while I work on a report that I have to present at work on the next day or simply try to stay up-to-date on the main events of the day, I let the same melodies flow through my headphones. And this is how many of my playlists are born.

One of the collection of pieces that in the recent times is giving me the greatest satisfaction also in terms of listeners and comments is by far the one entitled Beautiful Piano, the playlist in which I select the best pieces for piano that are recorded and release by famous artists or young music promises. Beautiful Piano is upated regularly with new pieces, but there are special moments when the compilation reaches a state of maturity and a magical moment of equilibrium among the pieces. This is one of these particular situations, and I’m here to stop the time for a short juncture and capture this beautiful collection of music which will resume anyway soon its natural evolution and transformation.

Among the artists who contributed in recent times to the playlist we have:

  • Feico Deutekom, a jazz musician whose latest project (Feico Solo) is a piano album with music of Philip Glass, David Lang, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Douwe Eisenga, John Adams, Arvo Pӓrt, Nils Frahm, Clint Mansell and Max Richter.
  • Luca Ciut, an Italian film music composer who has recently released his second album, called Per Me Solo Per Me, Per Te Solo, where he plays delicate piano solo tracks influenced by composers such as Ludovico Einaudi and Max Richter.
  •  Tigran Hamasyan, a genius of modern music, a pianist who manages to merge potent jazz improvisation with the rich folkloric music of his native Armenia. Tigran has recently released a new beautiful EP, called For Gyumri, that has already populated many different playlist of mine.
  • Remi Panossian, another young jazz musician who plays with his trio but who has been regularly performing solo since his debut. His last work for solo piano, Do, is an inexhaustible source of sweetness and melodies.
  • Akira Kosemura, the Japanes musician who has given us so many beautiful tiny and delicate pieces for piano that bascially no playlist of this kind would make sense without his presence.

There are many other great artists included in the collection, you will discover them by simply launching the playlist and enjoying the music. Let the magic of piano illuminate your soul, or bring a caress of comfort on some particularly complicated day.


 

If you enjoyed the playlist and its commentary, you may be interested in reading these other posts that were published recently in the blog:

 


 

AF-RUI-KA. Feel the warmth and passion of the African Continent

I’m launching today a new playlist on which I’m working since a couple of months. The name of the playlist is af-rui-ka and it was conceived as the special place for all the best music coming from the the African continent. You’ll find here ethiopic jazz, afro-beat, desert blues, and every other special music bringing to us the warmth and the passion of this magic land.


 

According to many historians, the term Africa comes from the egyptian word “af-rui-ka“, which means “to turn yourself toward the opening of Ka”. The Ka is the energetic double of every person and “opening of the Ka” refers to a womb or birthplace. Africa then would be, for the Egyptians “the birthplace” — the “motherland” of the Black people, Earth’s oldest known humans.

 


At the time of its launch, the playlist features both famous and emerging artists from the African continent. The list of contributors includes incredible artists such as Ethiopian singer and lyricist Girma Bèyènè, Tony Allen and Afri Kuti from Nigeria (the latter is the son of afrobeat pioneer Afri Kuti), Grammy-Award-winner singer Oumou Sangaré and guitarist Samba Touré, from Mali. There are also many interesting bands such Ba Cissoko from Guinea, the Tuareg formations Tinariwen and Tamikrest, and also the multi-ethnic group Monoswezi (with members from Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe).

The list of artists is however going to increase because this playlist, as all the others managed by this blog,  will be updated frequently with new tracks and contributors.

Enjoy the playlist and follow it to keep yourself updated!


 

 

Jóhann Jóhannsson, in memoriam of one of the best composers of our times

On February 10th, 2018, Icelandic composer and experimental musician Jóhann Jóhannsson has died at age 48 in Berlin.

His last solo album, Orphée, was released in 2016 and it’s one of the most beautiful works of modern classical music of the last years. This was the tenth and final full-length album of his career. Jóhann Jóhannsson, however, was also a renowned and appreciated composers of movie soundtracks. Among his best works we may mention Sicario, Arrival and The Theory of Everything, for which he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.

The sadness is  great, he was probably at the highest point of his career and the only thing that at this moment can comfort us is that his creations remain with us to keep his memory alive.

I’ve assembled in short time a compendium of the best works from Jóhann Jóhannsson. This one-hour compilation collects both some songs from his solo works and some tracks from his best soundtracks. It is my little tribute to a great artist.


 

MELANCHOLIC FOLK, because not every day is bright and shiny.

I hope you will enjoy this compilation with the best melancholik folk that I assembled piece by piece in the last few months. I started collecting in one single place a number of songs that I picked up while listening and selecting to the new music releases, to which I then added other favorite tracks coming from the past.

You’ll find here different styles of folk, from pure celtic ballads to american folk. All the songs, however, are united by that melancholy tone that is in fact the driving element of the whole playlist. There are famous artists such as The Corrs, Rhiannon Giddens with the Kronos and The Unthanks, and also less famous – but no less valid – folk artists.

Launch this playlist on a rainy night or in a moment of relative peace and quiet, and let yourself be carried away by the celtic ballads and all the engaging stories which are narrated by these wonderful songs. Like all the playlists presented by this blog, this is a dynamic collections which is always updated with new songs  Therefore, do not forget to follow the playlist and return periodically to listen to other breathtaking and tearful songs.